August 11, 2011

Time for a New Post

Dear Friends,

We seem to have run out of space on the last post, hitting 201 messages, with me inanely going on about my undying love for Barbara Ann Nowak, so I figured it was time for a new one. Unfortunately, I'm plumb out of ideas rt now; my mind is like a wind tunnel (think George W. Bush, or perhaps Barbara Ann Nowak). So all I can do is give you my speaking schedule, at least what I know at the present time, and you can make plans to charter a huge jet and fly to Seattle and/or LA. Here's the info:

Nov. 4, Seattle: Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave, on Capitol Hill between Pike and Pine, 7 or 7:30 pm.

Nov. 8, LA: Barnes & Noble, Westside Pavilion, 10850 West Pico Blvd., 7 pm.

I'll be speaking about my new book, "Why America Failed," the 3rd (and last) in my American Empire series.

Hope to see you all there...

mb

207 Comments:

Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Looking forward to reading Why America Failed. Curious to see if the NY Times will review it, and if so, who'll do it.

Slightly morbid of me, I know ...

1:34 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tim-

Yeah, yet another hatchet job from New York's finest. With a little luck, maybe they'll ignore it altogether.

mb

1:38 PM  
Blogger Jimi Jones said...

I certainly hope you can make it out to DC on your speaking tour. I think Busboys and Poets would be a likely venue. I would so like to hear you speak and shake your hand. Please keep us posted re: your US speaking engagements. (I know - it means you'd have to be in DC. You'd surely be suffering for your art but my wife and I would happily put you up in our guest room!)

2:13 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Hi Maury,

I appreciate the "wind tunnel" that speaks well of your indefatigability, an essential characteristic of a good teacher, I believe.

I take periodic "vacations" from "fighting the good fight" or even thinking about it, but, thanks to you, I keep remembering and coming back!

I wish you the best on your upcoming talks and hope that presenting your latest on America's failure will prove stimulating and provocative to your audiences.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jimi-

I keep asking Wiley to put me on an East Coast tour, but I get the impression they don't think I'm worth the expenditure. What's a poor writer to do...

mb

2:58 PM  
Anonymous karmanot said...

No way! Lock yourself in the Lew until you come up with an idea. We, minions are needy..... and waiting for some trenchant clarity, if not a meme in place of a prayer.lol :)

3:38 PM  
Anonymous David M said...

Maybe you could audio/video the event and post it on the web site. Just a thought. I live in south west Florida and no one of any account makes appearances this far south except for dubya on 9/11. But then again he was a noaccount

5:00 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

David-

I don't know what these bkstores plan to do in that regard. I believe I did a gig at B&N in DC in 2006, and it got videoed and posted on the Net, so perhaps there's hope. But in any case, I'll post the lecture here after I get back from LA, so at least you'll have the text, if not my ugly mug.

Karma-

I do have a bit o' clarity 4u regarding the market, that someone gave me a long time ago: Buy low, sell high. Hope that helps. In the meantime, don't forget to google my (future) girlfriend, Barbara Ann Nowak. If that don' clear things up 4u, nothing will.

mb

5:33 PM  
Blogger Rossana said...

Dr. Berman--

I've read three of your books, Dark Ages Am., Twilight of Am. Culture, and more recently, A Question of Values--all worth reading and thinking about. (A sincere thanks from this reader!)

Now I'm looking forward to your next release in Nov. Will your book tour include any stops in Phoenix or Tempe, AZ? I bet Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe would be happy to welcome you, and I think I could round up a few good colleagues to attend. (Here's hoping!)
Cheers,
Rossana

7:08 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Rossana-

Thank u for your support. Wd love to swing by AZ, but it's all abt money, I fear, and I don't have a whole lot of it. My publisher won't even pay for me to come to NY; AZ isn't even on his radar screen. The West Coast trip was made possible by an institute in Seattle that wants me to do a workshop for them. You get the picture. I need to go door to door w/a begging bowl.

I shoulda been one of these TV evangelicals, telling people that they need to send in large contributions if they wish to save their souls. Then I could go to Tempe, Mud Flats, and even do a gig at Slippery Rock Community College. The sky wd be the limit. But try as I might, I just can't tell folks to put their faith in Jesus.

mb

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is hysterically funny. You can follow links in the original to references for what he is talking about.

An Open Letter to David Cameron’s Parents


Dear Mr & Mrs Cameron,

Why did you never take the time to teach your child basic morality?

As a young man, he was in a gang that regularly smashed up private property. We know that you were absent parents who left your child to be brought up by a school rather than taking responsibility for his behaviour yourselves. The fact that he became a delinquent with no sense of respect for the property of others can only reflect that fact that you are terrible, lazy human beings who failed even in teaching your children the difference between right and wrong. I can only assume that his contempt for the small business owners of Oxford is indicative of his wider values.

...

7:34 PM  
Blogger Jerry Faust said...

Perhaps you would be interested in journeying (via the Clipper catamaran) to Victoria, BC from Seattle? Our city's primary independent bookstores, Munro Books and Bolen Books, stock your titles and both establishments host author events (Bolen Books has already ordered copies of your forthcoming book). And you'd have the opportunity to be reacquainted with a former city of residence!

10:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anon-

It's quite amazing how capitalism never learns anything. Last October Cameron instituted an austerity program that crushed the life outta the poor. Then the people he destroyed eventually riot, and he calls them "sick". He never gets it, that he and his cronies in the City are the sick ones. This is the story of England over and over again: the enclosure acts, the Industrial Rev and destruction of the working class, Ireland, etc. And then when the victims get fed up and riot, the elite cry, "you wanton criminals"--a perfect description of themselves.

mb

10:36 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Jerry,

Thanks for the invitation. As you may know, I taught at UVic 1982-
87. It wd be nice to drop in on (read: shock the pants off) former colleagues, and hang out at local bkstores. The problem is that I've got less than 3 days in Seattle b4 I get on a plane to LA, so can't really squeeze anything else in. Rotten luck. We'll hafta figure out a way to raise vast amts of $ so that I can do a Canadian tour, at some pt.

mb

10:44 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

"Skilled labor [=craft] counts only as simple labor intensified..."

--Marx, Capital, vol.1, sec. 2

In Samuel Johnson's England in the 18th-century, many of the items of everyday use such as clothes, shoes, furniture, were still made by hand, often displaying great beauty as well as utility. But with the progress and intensification of the capitalist mode of production through technology, those same items were produced more plentifully and cheaply by means of simple labor alone and, perhaps, with a consequent loss of craftsmanship.

3:47 AM  
Blogger night clerk said...

Dr. B,

Sorry to hear of your limited range. So I doubt we'll be seeing you in Pittsburgh anytime soon, sorry to say. Here we have a guy who robbed a dance store for $20 - indicative of the desperation and craziness that seems to be taking over the nation. And now, sad to say, we probably won't even get the entertainment value that a Bachmann Presidency would give - looks like it's Texas redux with Rick Perry. What's a thinking person to do? -- Keith

5:38 AM  
Anonymous Rowdy said...

@Kelvin

Remember that that "progress" and intensification of production was derived from the utilization of fossil fuels, and therefore only a temporary phenomenon.

Marx didn't figure this out of course. He seemed to be clueless about the fact that manual labor was being replaced not by "technology", but by the calorific energy of coal.

William Jevons understood it though:

http://www.econlib.org/library/YPDBooks/Jevons/jvnCQ.html

7:46 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

I bet Newt Gingrich will stage a one-man demo outside the venue armed with a sandwich board. On one side, 'BERMAN IS...' and on the other 'AN INGRATE!' A hastily-erected banner nearby will shout, 'GOD BLESS AMERICA---and nowhere else.'

8:07 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Dear Morris,

Its too bad you're speaking at a Barnes and Noble, and not a Borders. The latter chain is in the advanced stages of receivership/bankruptcy, and stores across the country are holding "everything must go at 50% off"sales. Literally everything, not just books, shelves, or barista equipment etc. They actually seem to be putting price tags on dismantled surveillance cameras, the kind concealed behind those ominous black domes on ceilings.

Hearing you speak with a backdrop of stripped coffee bar service areas, dismantled seating, piled together stacks of magazine shelving, and the lighter areas of paint where Borders logos used to be would be an amazing, appropriately post-apocalyptic experience. Perfect match of subject and setting.

I picked up my first copy of Twilight of American Culture in Borders in its heyday, when it provided cheap $3.50-latte-and-browse-the-shelves mini-breaks for poor grad students like me who considered them affordable mini-luxuries. Pathetic. The fond memories of the Silver Age of Clintonian Complaceny are making my eyes mist up right about now.

In the Borders flagship store in Ann Arbor, Mich. that I visited lately, the crowds fighting over all the leftovers of the bankrupt consumer age reminded me of those movies where a small band fights off zombies in a shopping mall, tearing flesh from bones amid all the faded, soiled baubles of a lost age.

Please find a similar "bankrupt-Borders" - type backdrop for your next speaking tour, Morris. It would be, as they say, a Gesamtkunstwerk.

Ray

9:00 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Ray-

You shd be writing novels, man, not wasting time on this little blog. Perhaps we'll get lucky, and B&N in LA will collapse while I'm giving the talk, and the LA Times will run an article on how the collapse of B&N was a metaphor for the collapse of the US, and that Berman was like Isaiah, and it took a Sign from God to show people that they needed to heed their prophets, etc.

Michael-

Fuck Newt. The person I wanna see, of course, is Barbara Ann Nowak. She'll show up leading a protest march, but I have such a silver tongue that I'll propose to her, and she'll melt away. We'll get married on national TV the very next day, and honeymoon in Yellowstone, among the meese (are there meese in Yellowstone?). Eventually she'll be elected president, and the B&N store in LA will be declared a national shrine; unless it collapsed during my lecture.

Keith-

I guess u and other Pittsburgers could bombard Wiley with letters, declaring, "We must have Berman! Send us Berman!", etc. Suddenly, a plane e-ticket will materialize on my computer screen, and I'll show up at a hollowed-out Borders w/Barbara Ann Nowak, where we'll do our soft-shoe duet routine to wild acclaim in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

mb

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Just checked out the Barnes and Noble website to read about Why America Failed...according to B&N, "people who bought this book also bought Bill O'Reilly's Pinheads and Patriots."

No freaking way.

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I'm disappointed we won't be seeing you here in Austin either. I looked in the crowd for you and Barbara Ann at Rick's Prayer/Hustle/Schmatlzfest but I guess you had your heads down praying. Sarah is consoling herself with a another focus-the-camera-on-me bus tour since you dumped her. Heartless, truly heartless.

What's the best way to buy your book that assures you get a royalty? That's a serious question as it seems relevant authors are being starved out by indirect, but effective, means. Don't finance a real book tour for a real book; save the money for Eat, Pray,Self-Promote and other such drivel.

But enough whining because we all have the ultimate reality show to look forward to. Each new candidate is even better than the last and occasionally (as we saw yesterday at the Iowa State Fair with someone demanding Romney answer a real question)they even have to come into contact with disgruntled citizens. With Rick Perry we've hit the jackpot. A gay friend here in Austin gave me some interesting information on our fine, Christian, ultraconservative, self-righteous governor that I can't think of any way to put it that wouldn't put me at risk of being sued.

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Morris,

I think you've made a mistake giving up on Sarah so soon. Great things are in store for her if this is to be believed:

http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/08/11/moore.perry.candidate/index.html?hpt=op_t1

or this if that one fails: http://tinyurl.com/3ejzghm

Truly a recipe for onward and downward.

Maybe you should explore bigamy? Barbara Ann Nowak AND Sarah Palin. Hey, it's even biblical! That should appeal to both these fine American ladies. Damn!

Bisley

1:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, what can I tell u guys; life is weird, n'est-ce pas?

Susan-

Yeah, I even like Austin. As I told Keith, bombard Wiley w/emails: "We hafta have The Berm in Austin!" etc. After they hit the Delete button 800 times, they might change their minds, send me a ticket. Best place to buy the bk: yer indep. bkseller, if any still exist. I like to call Mitt Romney, Rom Mittney; the guy is little more than a walking haircut. As for the rest: Jesus, what a collection of clowns--almost as empty and rudderless as Obama. Do we need any better evidence for the complete collapse of the American Empire?

Bis-

While the prospect of a menage does intrigue me, I'm afraid those two ladies wd eat me alive.

mb

4:09 PM  
Blogger mila59 said...

Ha ha ha. I'm a librarian. I can't afford to fly to California. But wish I could be there.
Break a leg! (BTW -- that's what my mother always says for good luck as it's bad luck to say good luck...)
Mila

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

First of All

First of all it is necessary
to find yourself a country
--which is not easy.
It takes much looking
after which you must be lucky.
There must be rocks and water
and a sky that is willing
to take itself for granted
without being overbearing.
There should be fresh fish
in the harbor, fresh bread
in the local stores.
The people should know
how to suffer without
being unhappy, and how to be happy
without feeling guilty. The men
should be named Dimitrios
Costa, John or Evangelos
and all the women should be
named Elena or Anthoula.
The newspapers should always
lie, which gives you something
to think about. There should be
great gods in the background
and on all the mountain tops.
There should be lesser gods
in the fields, and nymphs
about all the cool fountains.
The past should be always
somewhere in the distance,
not taken too seriously
but there always giving perspective.
The present should consist of the seven
days of the week forever.
The music should be broken-hearted
without being self-indulgent.
It should be difficult to sing.
Even the birds in the trees should
work for a dangerous living.
When it rains there should be
no doubt about it. The people
should be hard to govern
and not know how to queue up.
They should come from the villages
and go out to sea, and go back
to the villages. There should be
no word in their language
for self-pity. They should be
farmers and sailors, with only
a few poets. The olive trees
and the orange trees and the cypress
will change your life, the rocks
and the lies and the gods
and the strict music. If you go there
you should be prepared to leave
at a moment's notice, knowing
after all you have been somewhere.

--Kenneth O. Hansen from The Uncorrected World

Kenneth was my mentor in English studies and modern humanities. He loved Greece, now so beleaguered, and died in the early 2000s. I feel elegiacal.

5:01 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Mila-

Just join the other 64 members of the DAA65 in renting a jet. That'll bring the per person cost down pronto. And no need for hotel; just sleep in the jet. What a blast!

mb

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Hi Rowdy,

Thanks for the comment. Since so far I've only read through sec.s 1 & 2 of chapter 1 of Marx's Capital, I don't feel qualified to judge his awareness of the sustainability of the capitalist mode of production. Of course, I'm aware of this from the writings of activists like Derrick Jensen.

I should point out that David Harvey, who has taught Capital for several decades, every year, in a piece posted on his web site is aware of the problem you mention. The article is entitled "Organizing for the Anti-Capitalist Transition." There he states, "Social change arises, he [Marx] argues, through the dialectical unfolding of relations between seven moments within the social body politic." One of those moments is "relations to nature," and I believe that that might be a logical basis from which to extend Marx's vision in Capital to encompass Jevons's observation.

6:34 PM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Hi Morris,

Thanks for the encouragement of my writing. Very kind of you. But please note - there is a direct relationship between being on this blog with all the DAA65 and the stuff I come up with - i.e. being here is not wasting time at all. I look back at some of the stuff I wrote here and they COULD go in a larger work. Thanks for the fermentation.

But damnit, no matter how hard I try I just can't stay in NMI-appropriate-serious mode when writing about all this insanity around us. I always gravitate to the possibilities of aesthetic frisson and yucking up the collapse. You seek respite in dreams of ice-flow orgies with SP and BAN (and perhaps Michelle B.)...Dmitri Orlov has perfected his own brand of apocalypse drollness...and to that I add...

What if copies of Twilight, DAA, and WAF become ACTUAL cult objects in themselves in the coming collapse, and were worn as part of ritual/defensive clothing? Kind of like scapulars among old-line Catholics, or wrapped up incantations put into tefilim by Jews. Or sewn up by the dozens as padding/ insulation/ protection into some kind of samurai-like quilted body armor like Genghis Khan, Planet of the Apes, that kind of thing.

Spiritual and physical armor, ya dig?

Good luck at B&N...imagine the place bankrupt while you're speaking...

Ray

9:55 AM  
Anonymous Rowdy said...

Hello Kelvin,

I personally tend to think of Marxism as the same old Western teleological progress-jizz, hidden under a cloak of egalitarianism.

That said, there are Marxist scholars who I deeply respect (check out Christopher Hill) and I've needed to get around to reading David Harvey for quite some time.

So I suppose I would say that its value lies in the sincere men and women who have used it as a tool to garner real insight; but as a methodology for future usage, it's as hopeless as all the other big ideas that our civilization has generated to justify its indulgences.

Finally, I would point out that Marx, like Darwin, is at his most iconographic at old age with his heavy brow and long, white wisdom-beard (they are both God substitutes in other words).

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am reading one of your books "Dark Ages America" having been born and growing up Lebanon much of what you talk about in the book on Foreign policy is not new to me.

However, your observations about civility and rudeness and connecting them to the domestic and foreign policy were quite insightful.

I used to remember how we would gather around anyone who had returned from a recent trip to America or Canada and they always used to say how shocked they were that their hosts in America did not even know the names of the people living across the hall from them and everyone gathered would say no way you are lying how can you live in the same building and not know all the people on the same floor.

That sense of being disconnected from the people that are in the same physical space proximity as you is just sad, sad, sad I can't get over it. I have been Canada since 1992 (age 14) and Canada does not seem to be that much different than the USA.

What really horrified me is how much I have taken on the uncivilized habits without even thinking about it just seemed normal.

What strikes me the most about the American Media these days how much it has become like the Lebanese media. You see in Lebanon every faction has its own TV station, Radio Stations, and other media outlets and its followers only listen to their point of view and they call each other names much like some USA politicians talking about each other.

How soon will the bitter conflicts and nastiness that politicians are throwing at each other spill into the streets with supporters and detractors of political parties clashing with each physically.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Ray-

Who said NMI's had to be serious? I don't trust *anyone* who doesn't have a well-developed sense of humor. We certainly need to have some fun while the country tanks, no doubt abt it. How many NMI's does it take to screw in a light bulb? etc.

I look forward to my bks becoming cult objects, and the Playboy (or People) issue of 'Berman's America: Over and Out' (w/foldout of Barbara Ann Nowak). Imagine a nice little house constructed out of laminated copies of my books, with people solemnly marching around it, grunting Bermanic phrases and incantations. And you tell me the future is dim!

Anon-

I tell u, it amazes me that Americans and Anglo-Canadians actually think they're alive! Is that a riot or wot?

mb

10:01 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

For Rowdy, who says:

"Finally, I would point out that Marx, like Darwin, is at his most iconographic at old age with his heavy brow and long, white wisdom-beard (they are both God substitutes in other words)."

Darwin's ideas are fully formed 30 (and more) years before his old-guy iconographic pictures. The 1859 first edition of the Origin of Species says it all, and then some. If you invest a lot in images, then I guess the 1882 pictures mean more. Ideas or pictures, which is it? He ended up diluting his most potent ideas the older he got since criticisms were leveled at him he could not adequately answer with the science of his day. His earlier stuff is his best, the later stuff OK but quieter (except "Descent of Man": which rocks hard: e.g., music as a sexually selected trait, see Jimmi Hendrix!).

I'd guess the same is true of Marx, although nearly all I know of him comes via David Harvey.

10:51 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

It's you who best wake up Prof. Berman! You missed Rick Perry's speech, didn't you? He said, 'I realized that the United States of America really is the last great hope of mankind.'

I caught this flipping channels last night. Luckily I was reinforced with some vino otherwise my girl may have found me this morning swinging from the balcony with a kitchen electrical cord round my throat.

In any event I wanted to thank you for enlightening me on Elsa Morante. I guess I read your words on this a decade ago, but I've never forgotten about it. I even went to the train station here where the deportations took place.

For a guy with a grade 12 education your books were real eye openers, shocking in fact. You must get frustrated at times, Chomsky has admitted to it. How could you not be? But you shouldn't feel that way for, 'If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.'

Remember Confucius, 'Those who embark on the Path, their shoulders must be broad. For the Way is long and the Path difficult.'

Now let's all get behind Perry and put things right!

7:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Communism didn't work, all of that brotherly love and sharing under one great national superego. Capitalism worked really well, turning the selfish Id loose upon the world, until it ate everything in site while we heartily sang, “God bless America, .................”

What comes next? One big green world government with carefully manicured world citizen superego?

No matter how glorious it all seems at first, the Id always seems to slip between the cracks and go about its business while others recite psalms and pray for deliverance.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Bis-

The best one-vol. bio of Marx is still probably the one by Isaiah Berlin. Good explication of the theory.

Michael-

Glad to be of service, at least to someone. But I'm not that frustrated, because as I have often said here, Bad Is Good. For that reason, I wd favor Michele Bachmann over Rom Mittney and Rick. As Gore Vidal remarked in an interview back in 2006, "Stupidity excites me."

Anon-

It may not be all that black and white. Certainly, there is no perfect society. But there is better and there is worse, and it's probably worth trying to achieve better.

mb

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It just seems that community living is full of strife because of our natures. A hippie group may decide to start a commune with utopian dreams of getting along, sharing and so forth. But as time goes on the devious Id begins to show itself. One person steals small amounts of food from the communal pantry. Another person sleeps while others work but shares the produce equally. Another has numerous affairs with others in the commune. Eventually the “superego” glue that held the group together, comes apart and the group members go their own way as they can't tolerate being gamed.

The Soviet Union became unglued, the United States is becoming unglued, and all we can do is whip fundamentalism amongst the slaves while the corrupt drain them of their life savings. Let's face it, humans seek advantage within the “fair and honest” organizations they inhabit until those organizations are destroyed with vice and corruption. Good and evil, yin and yang.

When you don't know or speak to neighbors across the hall, the alienation is complete. We no longer live in a society, we are selfish Ids.

11:27 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anon-

You need to go back and (re?)read what I said in my previous message.

mb

4:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

"In the Roman Empire, the literacy rate was never high, and after the Sack of Rome, in 410 C.E., it began to plummet. It is possible for a whole culture to turn away from reading and writing. As the empire crumbled and Christianity became ascendant, as cities decayed, trade declined, and an anxious populace scanned the horizon for barbarian armies, the ancient system of education fell apart. What began as downsizing went on to wholesale abandonment. Schools closed, libraries and academies shut their doors, professional grammarians and teachers of rhetoric found themselves out of work, scribes were no longer given manuscripts to copy."

Sound familiar? It's from Stephen Greenblatt, "The Answer Man," The New Yorker, 8 August 2011

4:13 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Micheal,

I must refer you to Timothy Egan's op-ed on Perry 8/11/2011--Rick Perry's Unaswered Prayers as I noted perhaps a cynical attitude toward Our Govenor. Forget all those annoying, disturbing facts as to what's really happening here in Texas and join with me in prayer (snakes are not supplied--you must bring your own). One of the comments summed up Perry perfectly:


Perry may be just the man for our times, the one to lead us out of a long era of prosperity and back into the desert, like Moses in reverse. We can thumb our noses at science and sneer at evolution by willfully devolving back into knuckle-dragging, magical thinking dimwits. We can rewrite history, while we can still write, to imagine that Texas really is a whole 'nother country, independent and sovereign and beholden solely to the Lord. And the Lord doesn't care much for the minorities or the gays or anybody who does not look like Rick Perry.

This country has lots of problems. The climate is trying to freeze us, burn us, drown us, or blow us away. There are no jobs. People have no homes, no money, no medical care. This is why we need Rick Perry. He has a plan. It will not involve scientists, or technicians, or engineers, or sound economic policy, or an educated populace. Instead, if elected, he promises to fall on his knees, raise his hands unto Heaven, and beg the invisible for the impossible. He is truly the man for our times. The End Times, anyway.

So, Micheal, if you don't mind parched soil, dead livestock or a career in fast foods, please--bring the family and join us here in God's Country.

8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have to see this one to believe it:

Michelle Bachman allowed herself to be photographed eating a foot-long corndog at the Iowa state fair


The blogosphere is reacting as you would expect. Much hilarity, especially on the left, and some outrage though also some amazement that she would be so stupid.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anon-

I hope everyone else will click on that link. I tell u, that did it for me: to hell with Sarah P. and Barbara Ann Nowak: I am now madly in love with Michele, and looking forward to exchanging marriage vows asap. This is definitely my kinda gal.

Susan-

As for Perry, he's my kinda guy. As I said before, Obama has been a bit namby-pamby about running the nation into the ditch, altho for a spineless clown, he hasn't done half bad. But with Perry, we can go ahead intentionally, full-bore, and get the job done. Bad Is Good, never forget that.

I tell u all, that (as u know) I have been beating the drums for American stupidity being a critical factor in our inability to turn things around--a factor ignored by Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, and all of those deluded "progressives" out there. But in that Philip Green article I recently mentioned (posted on the logos website), he is the 1st political analyst besides myself to say it explicitly: intellectual vacuity, he writes, has hit critical mass. There's no turning back now, folks; Onward and Downward, with Mich and Rick leading the way. More degradation, more buffoonery--it's so exciting!

Michele, come to me! Have my babies!

mb

11:33 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

..,some amazement that she would be so stupid.

Stupid? You mean genius. She just locked up the corndog vote and the porn vote. In this country that's a landslide.

2:06 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Z-

And the marriage proposal vote, including yours truly. I plan to come up North, work on her campaign.

mb

10:00 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

I occasionally check out Cary Tennis' advice column at Salon, and I was struck by his response to today's question:

http://www.salon.com/life/since_you_asked/
index.html?story=/mwt/col/tenn/2011/08/14/dream_job

... it occurred to me to see that today's parenting regime seems to have coalesced around the project of keeping youth constantly socialized and trained and busy so that they cannot sit around and wonder what's wrong. Because wondering what's wrong leads to troubling conclusions.

We have responded to the problem of existential anxiety not by confronting it with existential philosophy but by creating an ever-larger and more sophisticated web of 24-hour distraction and socialization training, so that young people are prevented from attaining the socially analytical skills that might lead them to see how they're being fooled. If they saw how they are being fooled they might disrupt the functioning of this system. They might go on strike. They might bring the whole thing crashing down.

... You are living in a dishonest and rapacious culture, and you are doing the best you can to make it work for you. Even those of us working for causes we believe in are working in a basically anarchic, amoral system, without the benefit of unions or workplace protections and in an economic system that has no moral foundation.

That's what we do. That's who we are. And that weird anxiety you feel from time to time, that's not a problem. That's just the truth seeping in.

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

And, lucky for us, Dr Berman's new love interest has written a lengthy commentary in this fine newspaper outlining her qualifications for high office and her plans for the nation:

http://tinyurl.com/3ckclsd

It's all clear now.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Bis-

While I cannot deny that Mich's obvious oral talents had something to do w/my falling head over heels in love w/her, in the end it was her cutting-edge intellect that tipped me over the edge. After all, when u come down to it, what's Obama got that she doesn't? True, he's black, chic, and makes lovely speeches; but in the end he's totally full of crap, so where's the gain?

Michele! Have my babies!

mb

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, right-wing canidates seem to be clueless about what eating a corndog looks like. Rick Perry was also at the Iowa State Fair. And yep, he also ate a corndog for the cameras.

Rick Perry at Iowa State Fair

11:56 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jesus, he looks grotesque.

4:44 PM  
Blogger diana said...

I don't eat meat but Rick Perry has my admiration for attacking a corn dog like that in public. Sure understand why ordinary folk in the heartland would trust him over those chardonnay sipping non-fried food eating democrats. Can a democratic politician eat anything at a State Fair?

I mean, it takes a man who is very secure about his manhood to down a corn dog like that in public doesn't it?

8:27 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

D-

On the other hand, maybe he wasn't aware he was being photographed. In any case, I don't care that much, because I'm going to be marrying Michele. Yes, corn dogs will be served at the reception; yer all invited.

mb

9:57 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Maury, will the wedding reception include an Elvis impersonator singing, "It ain't nuthin' but a corndog," by any chance?

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Leon Panetta confirms that the Pentagon is proposing to replace military retirement with 401K plans, requiring military retirees to wait until retirement age (which is undoubtedly going up) to collect their pensions & (reduced) benefits:

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/08/
panetta-confirms-pentagon-considering-replacing-military-retirement-with-401k-plan.php?ref=fpb

These are the same people who are always telling us to Support Our Troops, right?

I wonder how many people who enlist due to programmed patriotistm or dire economic need will now be screwed over even more if this change is enacted?

Just another example of how nobody, nobody matters to The Powers That Be, even the ones they praise & glorify (and then discard when no longer useful).

For some reason I suddenly envision a wide-eyed, sweat-soaked Kevin McCarthy screaming, "You're next! You're NEXT!"

8:39 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Anon--

Thank you for the great Rick Perry photo. A perfect caption would be: What Perry is Willing (and Able) to do for Campaign Cash. It seems he and Michelle are even stupider than they look --- who would have thought it possible? I saw Linda Lovelace interviewed about 10 years ago and she's a born-again Christian so we can safely assume she's Michelle's media expert. 2012 is certainly going to provide hours of entertainment.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tim-

Actually, I was hoping Mich wd sing that. Will check w/her, get back 2u.

mb

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Did you know that during his first visit to the States, Sigmund Freud tried a foot long wiener with the trimmings, on Coney Island?

Sandor Ferenczi records him saying
"Lets be frank (chuckle), Sumptimes a hot dog ist yust a hot dog."

7:43 PM  
Anonymous David M said...

Article on alternet by the son (Frank Schaffer) of Machelle Bachman's dominionist dominie. He lays out some of the fundamental teachings. The dominonists believe in a strict interpretation of the bible and is to taken literally and the laws laid down are the only laws for MAN. Which of course suggest the US Constituion and other laws implimented by man are satanic. Here is the good news Dr. Berman; wives are commanded to be submissive to their huabands. Could be a marriage made in heaven.

7:29 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

David-

Actually, I was already planning to call her "my little corn dog."

mb

10:13 AM  
Blogger took_the_red_pill said...

The latest bit of idiocy from Bachmann:

Bachmann: Rising Threat of the "Soviet Union"

Uh, yeah...we need to be worried about the "Soviet Union", a nation which went out of existence twenty years ago. What's next..the Huns? Genghis Khan?

9:52 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Took,

I guess American politics is now officially surreal. Jesus, calling her a dummy is practically a compliment. Myself, I'm worried about the Kaiser.

mb

10:57 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Remember there's always a bit of the prophet in those with great intellects. Bachmann could be right, and we'd best keep our eyes on the rising Red Tide.

Dissembling the Soviet Union may have been a Commie ruse. They're biding their time I bet, waiting for us to cut military budgets so they can cold clock us.

I hark back to an era when we were strong and men like 'the Duke' commanded center stage. I watched 'The Sands of Iwo Jima' again last night and wept openly as 'the Duke' 'bought the farm' just after the American flag went up.

And his immortal lines to a young, nervous Marine, 'if you're nervous, go count your toes.'

We need someone like 'the Duke' to teach those Red bastards what's what.

5:53 AM  
Anonymous Rowdy said...

Forget Michelle and Babs Nowak,

Here's a REAL woman for you Dr. Berman:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2026964/Susanne-Emans-bid-worlds-fattest-woman-52st-mother-2-supersizing.html

9:11 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

All well and gd, but as Michele can tell u, Hitler is massing troops along the Rhine even as we speak. Is no one concerned abt this?

1:34 PM  
Blogger David McFarland said...

See you in Seattle, MB! I'm just outside Vancouver, BC and will drive down after teaching my Grade 9 English students from a translation of The Odyssey. I realize how rare is my opportunity to hear you speak -- very much looking forward!

1:25 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

David-

A trip I made fairly often when I lived in Vanc. in the 80s. Anyway, be sure to introduce yerself, say hi; and thanks for coming, I appreciate it.

mb

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Now here is a candidate for president that clearly displays intelligence. Easily surpasses the entire field of republican candidates (excepting, to be fair, John Huntsman who at least has the balls to be openly pro-science in an otherwise magical-thinking group):

http://tinyurl.com/3h3dot4

Who will organize the SuperPac? Will this candidate make it onto Dr. Berman's love list? So many questions....

Bisley

11:54 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Bis-

One comment below the video said: "even their orangutans are smarter"--than Americans, I presume. Of this, there can be no doubt. When I compare this ape to Rom Mittney, who is little more than a walking haircut...How did Americans manage to *devolve* so dramatically, become little more than a race of grunting buffoons?

mb

2:01 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

http://shine.yahoo.com/
channel/parenting/
10-things-you-dont-know
-about-teens-and-social-
networking-2527367/

In case anyone was wondering just how FUBAR we are. Remove all doubt by reading the article. Grunting baboons, the whole lot.

11:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Joe-

Thanks for the ref. Gd piece on the technological murder of our children.

mb

6:07 AM  
Anonymous David M said...

Joe:
That article reminds me of what a great childhood I had. Back then (some 50 + years ago) kids played outside either in the streets in front of homes or at the playgrounds. Boys would play some type of ballgame; girls hop-scotch jump rope or maybe pratice cheerleading.Riding bikes was also in. Sometimes both would get together for tag or hide and seek depending on age. Parents would be watching or even taking part and interacting.

When cars would drive by, drivers never seem upset because they had to drive slow or were held up for a short while.

Drive through any residential area (at least in Florida) and you would think it was a deserted ghost town. All the kids are inside playing computer games and social networking and parents are nowhere to be found (probably shopping or working that second job).

I feel sorry for these kids consumed with self and cosumerism and not much future left for them. Thanks for the recommendation.

7:55 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Joe,

A fascinating & utterly sad article -- thanks for posting the link.

As a grotesque counterpoint, here's someone happily proclaiming that what ails us technologically is actually good for us -- "it's just a different way of learning," and all that:

http://www.salon.com/life/feature/2011/08/21/
now_you_see_it_interview/index.html

One of many scathing comments posted in response:

I'm sorry, but this just seems like so much bullshit to me. You know what brilliant things kids do with technology when they have unfettered access to it? They facebook. And when they've finished facebooking they google the thing the teacher has been talking about for the past hour and consider that they're learned what they were supposed to learn, then they update their facebook page again.

This has been my experience, absolutely. And America's pathetic and constantly falling standing in the world of education suggests I'm not wrong. We're training our children to be consumers, not thinkers.

8:45 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Will you be interviewed by Book TV after the release of your latest book?

Joe--

I read the article you recommended and found it chilling. My 10 year old granddaughter is spending more time on-line even though her parents monitor her closely. Computers, iphones, etc are still "toys" to her but I've seen her creative impulses diminish. She used to spend afternoons writing and illustrating books (about princesses of course)but now it's all video stuff and her ability to focus has changed. The dilema here is she's entering an age group where acceptance is everything and ALL her friends are on-line. Kids need friends and friendship revolves more and more around Facebook type interaction---how to mitigate its influence and not force her into social isolation?

9:30 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Susan-

No BookTV this time around, as far as I know. Either C-SPAN wasn't interested, or my publisher didn't follow up on getting them to do a recording (this also squashed any possibility of an East Coast tour). "Why America Failed" may prove to be the most invisible book of 2012. However, the gd news is that there will be a video made of the talk I give in Seattle, and an audio of the (same) talk in LA, both of which will get posted here and I hope elsewhere on the Net. One hasta be grateful for small favors.

There is, however, one thing that is clear about the process by which a culture dies: the forces turning the population into robots are very large, and the ones trying to avoid that depressing end are very small.

mb

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Joe- I couldn't help noticing this one "helpful tip" in your link:

"Institute family meals with tech breaks...Keep them short--under 45 minutes--and tech free for the most part...Give everyone a two-minute warning to check whatever device beforehand...After 15 minutes, allow a one minute message or text check. Aim to expand the tech free time as your kids become more focused."

This is supposed to be a parent reinsituting control? Huh? Family meals are now only possible if the parent somehow caters to the "inevitable" invasion of the online world in "measured" doses?

This isn't a family meal, this is Techno-Moloch toying with the parent through possessed children.

Stockholm syndrome, meet a frog in water boiling so slowly it isn't aware it is dying....

1:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Living in the Hartford area, I was hoping to catch an East coast appearance for the book - NY, Boston, New Haven, etc. Amazing that there are no plans. Perhaps I should see if we can get you in at the Mark Twain House - an awesomely appropriate venue. Kevin

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Dr L. said...

Joe, thanks for the article!

I actually don’t think that there is much difference between those teenagers in the article, and grownups who don’t use social networks. With grownups too, it is not “about the party, but about the pictures of the party” – not about what you do, but about status, maintaining appearances and being patted on the back. All those peopleless wealthy suburbs filled with amazing houses and yards and lawns – those things are not meant to be lived and enjoyed; they are just “the pictures of the party”, not the party…

8:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dr. L-

That somehow reminds me of a remark made by Chris Rock: When yer talking to someone in the US, you are actually talking to that person's agent. What is left in this country that's real, I wonder?

Kev-

Well, do what u can. One thing I can tell u is that my publisher ain't gonna spend more than a quarter to send me to the East Coast. I keep trying to teach them the basics of capitalism--ya gotta spend $ in order to make it--but thus far, I haven't been able to get thru to them. The author biz gets more depressing by the day.

mb

10:38 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Ray,

I found the tone of the article interesting as well; the part that you reference, for example, stating that giving children/teens a "two minute technology warning" that an impending family meal is about to commence is a good idea. Huh? what the hell planet are we on? Is it a surprise to anyone that ADHD diagnoses are sharply on the rise? How can any of these kids pay attention to anything? How can they not be hyperactive? Big pharma, of course, is completely ok with giving them psychostimulants to help them "focus".

Just thought the piece was a really stark reminder of where we have gotten ourselves. Susan, your granddaughter, for example...the pressure for younger and younger kids to "exist" online (or measure their existence by how present they are online)...staggering.

Dr. L, good point...Bruce Lee said (paraphrasing) that if somoene is pointing up at the moon, don't focus on the finger, or you'll miss all the heavenly glory. I think we are all about the finger, no?

11:10 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Caught this documentary last night on the History Channel. Entitled the 'Prophets of Doom' it brought together a group of experts in the fields of water, oil, terrorism, finance etc. The focus is on the U.S.

Some of it is shocking. Apparently several U.S. states will soon have to convince their citizens to drink recycled waste water.

Maybe it's aired in the U.S. before, don't know. One thing missing however was the cultural aspect which Prof. Berman would have been perfect for.

In the posting on Youtube someone has given the warning that 'this program contains propaganda!!!'

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSpLUpiMkj0

5:48 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Michael-

There was a national intelligence report published a couple of yrs ago entitled "Global Trends 2025" that said the US was on the decline and wd be a 2nd-rate power by that year. This was reported on in the Wash Post, wh/is how I heard abt it. Altho it's a gov't report, no one in the gov't ever refers to it. Everybody seems to be pretending it's "morning in America." Ostrich behavior, of course, can only contribute to the downward slide. As can the technological destruction of our children, wh/I'm glad to see we are discussing on this blog.

It is, of course, details like this that constitute a civilizational collapse. It's not all dramatic, as the sack of rome in A.D. 410 might lead us to believe. Rather, it comes about via the "death of a thousand cuts," as the saying goes. Of this idiom, Wikipedia writes: "Creeping normalcy, the way a major negative change, which happens slowly in many unnoticed increments, is not perceived as objectionable." Frogs in slowly boiling water, as Ray pts out (above).

mb

6:38 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Dr. L,

My wife & I live in an older suburb, which we chose for the quiet atmosphere & the friendliness of the residents. The families that have been there a long time do tend to know one another to a degree -- our neighbors across the street bring us organic vegetables from a local garden, we went to a next-door neighbor's surprise 50th birthday party recently, etc. We in turn always bake & bring them holiday cookies & cakes, offer a hand if help is needed, etc. And we're pretty much introverts!

Then there are those in the new development behind us. McMansions on lots far too small, swimming pools crammed into tiny yards, SUVs, etc. I've previously mentioned the one "neighbor" behind us who introduced himself by trying to claim some of our property as his (still unresolved). Every weekend he has people over & shows off his new pool, bragging loudly about all his money & expensive toys. Clearly driven by status & a constant, desperate need for the approval & admiration of others, it seems.

Michael,

As clean water becomes scarce & increasingly expensive, I expect the swimming pool crowd to seek status by being able to afford such a wasteful, empty luxury -- even more than they do now, I mean. Soylent Green, anyone?

8:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't watched the "Prophets of Doom" documentary but saw a few snippets. Three of the "prophets" are J.H. Kunstler (familiar to readers of this blog and DAA), Nate Hagens (formerly one of the drivers of The Oil Drum - interesting guy because he combines peak oil with neuroscience, i.e. why are we programmed for the pleasure rewards consumption brings), and Michael Ruppert ("Collapse" and "Crossing the Rubicon"). Not sure who the others are.

10:46 AM  
Anonymous Dr L. said...

Tim,

The suburbs I “lived” in always seemed like ghost towns. The streets would be empty in most beautiful weather, weekends or work days, any season, any time of day. The only exception would be Halloween. My current neighborhood is particularly wealthy, I walk by these perfect, expensively decorated, large gardens and mansions every day, and I don’t even see show-off parties. It’s just Lexus SUVs driving by…

2:18 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

As America slowly morphs into a mausoleum...Thorstein Veblen for the 21st century, I guess.

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Paul Emmons said...

Anonymous wrote:

>their hosts in America did not even know the names of the people living across the hall from them and everyone gathered would say no way you are lying how can you live in the same building and not know all the people on the same floor.

All 500 of them?

This condition is partly the fault of architecture and, (lest blame be confined to the U.S.) especially that of the "International Style." The architects had imagined themselves as social engineers and meant well; but they were psychologically naive in some respects, with sad consequences.

The impact is particularly demoralizing on the poor in high-rise public housing. The anonimity and anomie encouraged by these designs is inimical to any sense of community. Correspondingly, it is conducive to crime. See the article on Pruitt-Igoe in Wikipedia for the story of a vast project lauded in the architectural profession in the early 1950s, only to prove so hopeless in practice as to be blown up with dynamite after only twenty years.

One lesson architects have learned since is, instead of placing doors along one long hallway, place them in small alcoves of only a few. This feature promotes a sense of community among the several residents in each alcove, which in turn leads to a shared territoriality that encourages maintenance and discourages crime.

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Paul Emmons said...

Joe writes:

>I found the tone of the article interesting as well... for example, stating that
giving children/teens a "two minute technology warning"
that an impending family meal is about to commence is a
good idea.

It's so clearly a good idea that one wonders only why a writer
would call it a technology warning. There is nothing
technological or novel about the situation.

If the clock predicts an impending whatever down to the minute,
then of course children should learn, sooner or
later, to plan ahead themselves. But that probably doesn't
apply to meals or many other demands within the family. In the latter case,
isn't giving children an announcement a little in advance so that they can
wind up whatever they are doing just common courtesy?

My own dad would do that and couldn't get over the rudeness and insensitivity
of parents he noticed who didn't. Unless children are
misbehaving, habitually demanding that they stop what they are doing
*immediately* and start doing something else is disrespectful.
It will result in sullen, reluctant obedience (at best), which
is probably all the parent deserves.

Am I the only one who noticed that the ten teenagers
quoted about online life were all girls? If boys
socialize online less or differently, it would be interesting to know.
In any case, the article documents a failure of
femininsm when young females voluntarily reduce themselves to a state of preening
passivity that would have put my most vacuous school
classmates in the 60s to shame. I thought the point of all
social engineering in the past 50 years was that women
should go out, DO something, and be appreciated for what they can do.

5:10 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear MB et al,

A couple of weeks ago I took a bike ride through an exclusive neighborhood where, I was told, one could not hang out a clothes line, or keep one's vehicle parked outside, but in a garage the door of which had to be closed, opened only for quick exit or entry.

The hominids who had been absorbed into such gnostic (and "climate controlled") abodes could not risk giving any sign of having a body, the mere acknowledgement of which would hint of mortality, and "fallen Nature."

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Ah, Dr. L, I do know what you're talking about ... there are some dead areas like that not too far from us. Ours is old enough to have small, individual houses of all styles, rather than cookie cutter homes; we've got 40-50 year old trees; the park, the library, and lots of individually owned small shops are all within walking distance.

But as I say, as the current owners move or die -- people who are the children or grandchildren of immigrants, mostly Italian (like my mother's late parents) -- they're often replaced by a nouveau riche, crass, younger & certainly dumber generation -- can we just be blunt & label them Asshattus Americanus? (Roadrunner & Wile E. Coyote, my apologies.)

I remember what my grandparents' street was like -- everyone did know everyone, visiting constantly & watching over all children & grandchildren in the vicinity. As a callow teen I thought it horribly old-fashioned & embarrassing; now I'd give just about anything to have it back.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Paul-

There's a lot of literature on the effect of architecture and spatial arrangements on modes of relationship and so forth, and there is no doubt that some designs hinder the latter and some encourage it. But ultimately, the whole techno-approach has its limits. What remains an irreducible reality is that for the most part, Americans don't really want to relate to one another. Comparative studies of sociability bear this out, and it's why folks from Mexico or Lebanon or whatever who come here are finally alienated or appalled.

Tech is an odd duck, really, because of its circular structure. In other words, it definitely has a psychological impact; but particular types of tech arise from particular psychologies, which explains the phenomenon known as simultaneous discovery. The cell phone, e.g., takes isolation to the next level: mobile isolation, living in a bubble. But it gets invented (and more importantly, marketed) in a culture that is interested in isolation. Once introduced, it creates more isolation; and then more desire for isolation--leading to the invention of newer, even-more isolating devices. MIT has been experimenting with a kind of "body-wrap" that will enable you to walk down the street in a state of total solipsism, relating to no one but yourself. And one can bet that w/in 10 yrs, people will have communication devices implanted in their heads (1st predicted by Wm Gibson in "Neuromancer," 1984). All of this will, in turn, have a psych impact in the direction of more isolation; wh/will then result in even more insane isolating devices. The end of all this is that Americans will finally disappear up their assholes; at which pt we can wipe (so to speak) the slate clean, and begin the country again under a new, humanistic-cooperative set of principles. And people say I'm a pessimist!

mb

9:54 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Paul:

you had a pretty courteous father. "get your ass to the table now" was what mine would say, if I hadn't responded to the first request in 30 seconds. He didn't care what I was doing, what toy I was playing with. He also didn't care whether my obedience was sullen, or resentful. All he cared about was that my obedience was present. As I got older, the triangle of choices got bigger and he explained things more.

Looking back, I appreciate how he parented. I value your point, however. Sadly, I guess it is now better to give kids a warning to get off devices in a few minutes than to simply allow them to continue using them at the table. The reason I mention it being strange in the article is the fact that it strikes me as a sad and sobering reminder that families in this country need to be told how many meals together a week - devoid of fucking blackberrys or droids - should be strived for.

9:58 PM  
Anonymous David M said...

Dr Berman
Rediscovering american history in Dark ages America. Many tears ago I read Howard Zinn's 'A Peoples History' which opened my eyes for the first time. Dark Ages is opening them wider. Thanks for the hard work in trying to let in the light. If anyone out there has not read Dark Ages its an eye opener.

Paul
Just a different take on evening meals. My Mother served supper everyday at six. My brothers and sisters and I knew this. We did not need to be notified everyday what time supper was going to be served. We came to supper on time, even if it was not ready, not because we were told to but out of respect for our mother who would spend somtimes many hours in the kitchen. This is what courtesy and appreciation are all about. Which is what is lacking in today's American Society.
To drive my point home, A few days ago a youth on an ATV pulled up to me while I was unloading my trash for pick-up. I said "hello how are you doing". He did't even acknowledge me. He got off of his ATV, shut it off and ask to pet my dog, did so while I was talking, got back on his ATV and drove off without even a nod. He was quite rude.

8:16 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

To briefly add to Joes' rejoinder to Paul...

The point is not witholding or extending consideration and respect for kids, it's electronics versus humanity.

A respectful two minute warning to a kid to get his/her nose out of a book is NOT, repeat emphatically NOT the same thing as a "respectful" two minute warning to shut down an electronic device.

The kid with a book at mealtime will NOT spend the last two minutes before closing the book frantically texting down to the last microsecond and beyond, daring the parent to do something, setting up expectations for the next several minutes of coming responses from peers that will be frustratingly impossible to accesss. The kid with a book will NOT spend the entire meal with baited breath watching the time like a hawk waiting for the 15 minute "electronics access window," all the while oblivious to everything and everybody else around the table.

You cannot respect a technology that requires disrespect to use.

I say this as someone whose father was the worst offender in the "disregard for kids' autonomy" department that Paul deplores - I'm with him on that, EXCEPT for electronics. Asking for respect and consideration for elective and distracting electronics use is NEVER justified - the cell-phone bully who won't shut up is of course convinced that JUST THIS ONCE the importance of his/her call justifies respect from everyone around him, no matter how obnoxiously he/she is behaving in public. Pussyfooting around kids and giving them "electronic consideration" at dinner is training your little precious to become exactly that kind of bully.

Do I really have to spell this out? You give respect and consideration to worthy behavior - reading books is clearly included here. You don't respect and validate bullying, manipulative behavior - and EVERY - yes, you read right - EVERY instance of electronic behavior has the potential for bullying encoded into its DNA.

8:31 AM  
Anonymous Jason said...

RE: Architecture. I would highly recommend this book: (http://tinyurl.com/3zs9am9)

9:09 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

David-

How to let light in in the Land of the Dark is indeed a problem. The book was victimized by a NYT hatchet job, and when I responded to their 'review', they wouldn't print the response (see Letter to the Times, archived on this blog under 6/25/2006). Something like this is already happening with the sequel, "Why America Failed." Publishers Weekly just ran a review claiming that I ignore contrary evidence and cherry-pick my data--this based on one page of my text (out of nearly 200) in which I state that a country guided by selfish individualism is going to have a high crime rate. I didn't mention that the crime rate has been dropping over the past 15 yrs (wh/is true); but what I do pt out is that we have the highest homicide rate in the world, by orders of magnitude (also true). The irony here is that the review itself is a perfect example of cherry-picking: this one minor example, largely irrelevant to the major argument of the book, is used to characterize--and thus dismiss--the entire book. Potential readers will thus be led to dismiss it as well. And this is how America deflects, and thus marginalizes, fundamental criticism. There is finally no way to get the light in, really; books that ought to be mainstream (as a Berlin review of the German edn of DAA suggested) are instead characterized as idiosyncratic or "cult" books, and a tiny handful of folks like yourself read it and know better; but that's abt it.

mb

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

About the 15-year crime drop, in my home city, homicide is up while all other crime is down. Sounds more like stats are manipulated by police commanders who are under obvious pressure from city council, local businesses etc, but you can’t hide a homicide the way you can down grade a “assault and battery” to an “unwanted guest”.
~Sarah P.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sarah-

Gd pt; it's a well-known phenomenon. BTW...yr hometown...that wdn't be Wasilla, AK, wd it?

mb

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

If the actual # of crimes in the US have been dropping over the last 15 years, why has the prison population exploded? I know 3 strikes and you're out, prosecution for petty crime and drug possession account for a sizable increase but sometimes (and this seems to be one of them) the numbers themselves contradict reality. I'm looking forward to your new book; while I didn't agree with everything you said in either TAC or DDA, the validity of your arguments and the documentation you provided were solid. Plus---just look around. Poll after poll shows many people in the US know there's something very wrong and we're going down the tubes.

Paul E.--

I found your remarks on feminism to be interesting. I was a young woman in the earliest stages of the movement and have two grown daughters (one 39 and one 25) so I've seen big changes since I was 20. While educational and professional opportunities have greatly increased, the way women are treated may have actually gotten worse. Young women, no matter what social class they belong to, are treated more as commodities and less as potential mates. And the double standard is still there but all the protection it offered is gone. The pleasing behavior that has crippled women for who knows how long is still there too but with added pressure. Plastic surgery, desperate measures to look and act youthful, seductive attire, eating disorders---lots of evidence that feminism failed to impact core issues and may have exacerbated them.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

S-

Yeah, I thought abt that as well. The stats are that 1 out of every 31 Americans are involved in the "justice" system in one way or another, and I mean negatively (ie not employment). Breathtaking. Plus, prison is a major, and growing, industry--lots of construction, a big employer, and so on.

mb

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Dr L. said...

Paul,

The girls in the article only reflect the values of the society around them; “preening” has many forms, and is not reserved solely for the teenage girls. As I sort of said before, I don’t see much difference between constant taking and posting pictures of oneself to be liked, and constant pursuit of status symbols (big and better TV, car, house, job…) to be liked. Social networking only brought the whole thing to the new level of aggression and damage.

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman is not the only one who pays a price for speaking the truth. Google the associated press article, "Student ranks thinning for blogging Pa. teacher". The English teacher referred to "students as 'frightfully dim' and 'disengaged lazy whiners' on her personal blog."

"More than 200 parents have told a Pennsylvania school district they don't want their children taught by (the) teacher."

The teacher "was suspended in February after district officials learned of the blog."

I think it would be a pretty unusual bunch of American students if what she said were not the obvious truth. Here in rural Iowa, the local paper publishes a huge long list of students who are on the "Honor Roll" at the local high school – I can't imagine what that could possibly mean. The evidence that I can observe for it is very scant indeed.

Anon. & Susan W –

On the subject of crime statistics – I remember reading, long ago, that back in the 1950's there were several years during which the FBI refused to accept New York City's crime statistics because they couldn't believe them. Back then, it was then in the interest of politicians to keep crime figures low.

By the late 60's politicians were using high crime rates as part of a "law and order" campaign. I always figured it was an attempt to foster a racist reaction to the civil rights movement. Now it appears that we may be moving back the other way.

Crime rates seem to move up and down for reasons that nobody seems to understand, but it would be nice if we had reliable data.

David Rosen

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Berman
Philosophers such as Socrates were forced to drink hemlock for shedding light on the dark. Now days they are just marginalized (Thank goodness for your sake). Happy to be idiosyncratic and a cultist if this is the case.

On the incarceration issue: not to long ago there was a news report on democracy now(I don't remember the details) on a couple of judges in PA who were caught accepting monetary gifts from the prison industry for every youth that they sent to prison. Anything for a buck.

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Paul Emmons said...

Susan writes:

>While educational and professional opportunities have greatly increased, the way women are treated may have actually gotten worse. Young women, no matter what social class they belong to, are treated more as commodities and less as potential mates.

I hear you. Fifty years ago, we had no doubt that it was polite to open a door for a woman, or yield
your seat to her on a crowded bus. Today we don't know whether such an offer will be answered with a smile or a snarl. If the rules have changed, why go to the trouble?

The book I went to the bookstore to buy when I found _Dewey.._ was _Deep Secrets_, by Niobe Way. Boys have their own problems, both similar and different. These are not good times to be a boy in America. According to a guidance counselor, we'd be surprised at how often they agonize over their friends and friendships with one
another. The culture actually discourages them. Boys who manage to find a close friend feel at pains to assure others that there's "nothing homo" about it (without being the least bit homophobic themselves). Around age 15-16, the suicide rate among boys soars. A boy might turn to
a gang simply to find friends. This sad situation corresponds to
much that Morris has said about American peculiarities.

5:38 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Paul-

Pls be a bit cautious about "over-posting," as I like to keep the airwaves balanced. Also, we have a space limit here of about half a page. If u wd be kind enuf to send your other message tomorrow, and compress it down at least 50%, I'll be happy to post it. Many thanx.

mb

6:04 PM  
Blogger diana said...

I spent 3 hours last week volunteering in my daughter's 3rd grade classroom. Many of these kids can't sit still for 10 minutes and for some unknown reason make countless trips to the restroom. Some of them can't understand math word problems unless the problems are read out loud several times.

These kids obviously have problems focusing but the school is now on a kick to switch from chalk boards to smart boards. Yes, these kids will now spend more time staring into a large screen. Will have more access to the internet and of course, may never be able to solve a word problem without help.

How much longer before the smart board replaces the teacher altogether. Does this explain Bill Gates' interest in education?

7:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Meanwhile, I just ran across "State vs. Defense," by Stephen Glain. Has anyone read this? It looks rather good.

8:16 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

A television show that shines a little light in the darkness is Countdown, Keith Olbermann's news and commentary program on Current TV. He interviewed the economist, Jeff Madrick ("Age of Greed") the other night. Madrick said that if the Bush tax cuts were allowed to expire, we would not have a budget-balancing problem and would be able to maintain the social programs we need. He concluded: "I don't remember economic leadership this poor in the U.S."

One of the saddest (and most infuriating) things about America's failure is that it didn't have to be this way. It could very easily have been different (better)...and no rocket science required!

7:46 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

At one pt in one of his novels, Alexander McCall Smith says that a rotten culture can only produce rotten representatives. These people don't materialize out of nowhere, and they don't get voted into office for no reason at all. Consider:

-A nation of not-very-bright individuals, whose idea of thinking is to mechanically repeat slogans, produces Reagan.

-A nation of lightweights, who have no vision for themselves or the nation at large, produces Bush Sr.

-A nation of sad, needy people who think power is what life is about, produces Clinton.

-A nation of dry drunks, empty-headed clowns who can only fill the emptiness with fundamentalist Christianity and sadism/violence, produces Bush Jr.

-A nation of spineless do-nothings, who wish to avoid conflict at any cost, and who have no real sense of who they are or what they are doing, produces Obama.

-And what kind of nation produces Sarah Palin, Rom Mittney, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry, who are little more than morons and/or walking haircuts, as serious candidates?

Guess.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of COURSE Americans don't want to relate to each other. Of Course they prefer isolation. What form does relating to each other usually TAKE in this country?

Endless discussion of sports, endless discussion of fashion, endless "socialization," etc. In schools, kids are told that intelligence is bad, but "relating to your peers," even if "your peers" are doing nothing but watching and talking about TV, is good. And when co-workers bully someone, it's THAT person who gets fired for his refusal to "relate!"

Psychologists tell us, "We have to learn how to respect others and not blame them for our anger," when "respecting others" always means MINDLESS CONFORMITY and our "anger" is always because we see the truth like Morris Berman does!

Of course Americans don't wish to relate to each other. Social life in this country is mean-spirited and dumb and nobody is willing to SAY it is.

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

For every indicator of endarkenment we post here, there are dozens, probably hundreds more each day. And this is why those optimistic, think-positive types so eager for "vibrant solutions" are chasing an illusion. For every hole in the dike that they propose to fix with their techno-savvy plans, a hundred more spring open elsewhere.

Meanwhile, there's no investigation of what's causing all the holes in the first place, much less any plan for dealing with it. If anything, there's an emphasis on looking away from the cause & never acknowledging it, because it invariably includes & indicts those selfsame optimistic, think-positive types.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, I tell u...mean-spiritedness is so pervasive in the US that literally no one seems to notice it. Americans think this mode of relating is the world norm, when it's actually grotesque. As for phony optimism: Barb Ehrenreich, "Bright-Sided," if I haven't recommended it already.

Just got email from German friend who lives and works in the US but spends his summers in The Fatherland. He wrote from Frankfurt: "Lots of cool people here (low buffoon count)."

1:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems that ignorance is encouraged because it's the last defense for old ideas that no longer work in juxtaposition to scientific certainty. Once buffoonery becomes the accepted herd behavior, then it becomes increasingly difficult for anyone with higher standards to interact without putting on airs in reverse. I once had a coworker complain that I was trying to one-up fellow workers by wearing khakis instead of jeans. Interacting at street level can be excruciatingly painful where trust is saved for those having similar characteristics like tattoos, dance “moves”, corpulence, and a shallowness that defies understanding.

1:56 PM  
Blogger RainbowShadow said...

Hey, Morris Berman, here's something you might find interesting:

Right now, our country is in such a mess that even a few CONSERVATIVES think there's something badly wrong.

Take Harold Bloom, the giant of a literary critic, for example. He's a conservative (he hated the counterculture movements of the 1960's, for example, and he's convinced that Western culture is superior to all other cultures on the planet; he would never have read Lao Tzu as you have for example), but he's recently released a book called The Anatomy of Influence (an update of his earlier Anxiety of Influence) in which, according to one quotation from the book, even HE thinks the Tea Party is awful. Why? Because to Bloom, the Tea Party represents stupidity and zealotry and hatred of reading and thinking.

Here's a Harper's Magazine interview with him about his latest book:

http://harpers.org/archive/2011/08/hbc-90008190

2:05 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anon-

I tell ya, that's the crux of it; it's ultimately why the US can't be turned around. I don't even know what that wd mean at this pt. I recall, some yrs ago when I lived in DC, seeing a bumper sticker that said, "You Can't Fix Stupid". And I thought: That's the bottom line, isn't it? But u also can't fix mindlessness, conformity, and mean-spiritedness either--the sort of stuff yer talking abt.

Maybe I'm a canary in a coal mine; I'm not sure. I was talking about national collapse in 2000, when it was an oddity; now I see the subject casually mentioned in popular mags, as tho everybody is aware that we are on a downward slide. "Why America Failed" is, to my knowledge, the first detailed post-mortem analysis of America to appear; by 2025, when the US is old hat, passe, more or less internationally irrelevant, there will be tons of post-mortem books as well. And what I'm hoping these latter books get is that we did ourselves in; that via our very own stupidity, cupidity, mean-spiritedness, conformity, shallowness, and the like, we committed national suicide. Because as far as I can see and understand it, that really is the case. Of course, post-mortems written by Americans may miss this, but I'm guessing that ones written by the French, Germans, Chinese, Bulgarians, and Burkino Fasians will not. Indeed, many European authors regard the US as a mistake, and this goes back quite a ways. Freud stated this explicitly, and added: "America is the most grandiose experiment the world has seen, but, I am afraid, it is not going to be a success."

mb



mb

3:07 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman,

For some reason comments on this blog have been reminding me of some lines from an old Bertolt Brecht poem – they go like this:

"And there we sat, a race of lightweights,
In houses said to be indestructible."

"From this town there will remain:
What went through it – the wind."

"And after, there will come:
Nothing worthy of mention."

I don't remember the original context of the poem. It may have been about New York City or Weimar Germany for all I know - but it does seem to fit the condition of our blessed land today.

David Rosen

3:38 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

DR-

Well, we are indeed lightweights. And the wind blows thru empty minds, really. It blew thru Reagan's mind, thru the Bushes', and now thru Obama's. It will blow thru the next president's as well, and thru university presidents; and the 'minds' of CEOs, newspaper columnists...and as we do ourselves in, whole other civilizations will look at us and say, "What was that all about? Business, I guess."

mb

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Retrogression continues to gain momentum. NPR, one of the few sources of news and information for at least semi-literate people in this country, has just produced a story about the "Spiritual Warfare" movement. In a nutshell, a growing segment of the Evangelicals have decided they are "anointed by God" to rule the US and save it and us from the demons that are in control. Yes, these are the people Rick Perry is connected with. You can read the story and/or download the podcast at this page:

The Evangelicals Engaged In Spiritual Warfare


quote:

An emerging Christian movement that seeks to take dominion over politics, business and culture in preparation for the end times and the return of Jesus, is becoming more of a presence in American politics. The leaders are considered apostles and prophets, gifted by God for this role.

The international "apostolic and prophetic" movement has been dubbed by its leading American architect, C. Peter Wagner, as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). Although the movement is larger than the network organized by Wagner — and not all members describe themselves as part of Wagner's NAR — the so-called apostles and prophets of the movement have identifiable ideology that separates them from other evangelicals.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Not to add yet another layer to the gloom and doom, but I strongly recommend Christian Parenti's new book, "Tropic of Chaos: climate change and the new geography of violence". Lot's of background on the political south and how climate change is already exacerbating the chaos in countries that are racked with corruption and violence, a legacy of colonialism and cold war politics. The dysfunction is striking and very disturbing, and I think it describes where we might be heading if climate change accelerates. The rich get their's, the poor get screwed, etc., etc. Probably full-blown fascism. An "armed lifeboat" as Parenti describes it.

And for those of you on the E. Coast, a special climate intensified treat: Hurricane Irene is making her way over unusually warm water and has a bead on NY City. If she hits a bullseye at high tide you could see lower Manhattan underwater.

6:45 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

The potential confluence of Evangelical takeover, violent climate change, and the return of Jesus has me semi-ecstatic at this pt. One can only hope they happen on the same day. I'm also rooting for ecpyrosis, and perhaps a bit of psoriasis. But I do hope Irene goes easy on Hoboken, NJ, where my publisher is located.

7:00 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman,

You say, "..whole civilizations will look at us and say, 'What was that all about? Business, I guess.'"

I think it's already been said – probably many times, in many ways. I seem to recall Oswald Spengler (not in "The Decline of the West," but in another book) referring to the US as "A collection of dollar-trappers. No past, no future."

As you have said, if your only value is to get more and more material wealth, you don’t have a value system.

David Rosen

8:10 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

NPR is getting to the Dominionism story a little late. Dominionism, the New Apostolic Reformation, and Christian Reconstructionism have been an undercurrent of Republican politics for awhile.

The single best resource to learn about these folks is the website Talk2Action (http://www.talk2action.org/). Frank Schaeffer (son of Evangelical powerhouse Francis Schaeffer) has a couple recent books recounting growing up, participating in, and then leaving these movements. The film "Jesus Camp" is another good intro.

But it's nice the mainstream media (or maybe it really is lamestream as St. Sarah says) is finally noticing.

8:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

What can I say? Obviously, Jesus is the answer. I'm sad that it's taking so long for people to figure that out.

11:21 PM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Bis and others,

Gloom and doom might not be the worst of it...

Realistic or not, which of the two futures below would be a larger disaster for the people of the world and of this country...?

A.)the US continues on its downward spiral. This could proceed either catastrophically (the Nazi Germany option,removing forever any potential for hybris), or somewhat more gradually and unspectacularly(post-imperial Britain, France, Japan, Russia) - allowing more time for psychological adjustment. In either case, we reach some irreducible minimum of decrepitude/no-growth stability based on the inherent carrying capacity of the continent. We take our place as just another failed hegemon, a somewhat resentful, emasculated Reconstruction South writ large that, however messed up at home, bothers nobody else abroad ...

or

B.)The wettest of Wilsonian/ Jeffersonian/ Kennedyesque/ Obamaesque/ technoptimist wet dreams come true. The structural/ psychological/ material impediments to reform Morris identifies are somehow effectively dealt with. Some kind of mass bipartisan American Renaissance Movement, successfully creates a socially just "republic" of minimally tolerant, acceptably intelligent, well-mannered, book-reading part-time yeoman farmers-cum-stalwarts of a "scaled" capitalist innovation culture stripped of its consumerist excesses - with or without Green Jesus' help. Guaranteed by new post-oil technology, this revived social formation continues to exercise hegemony over the planet via a military-industrial complex increasingly sealed off from the surrounding "sustainability" culture. This time we dominate others not to ensure petroleum supplies, but out of pure egocentric idealism of the Wilsonian kind. This opens the way to endless centuries of American triumphalism - of a particularly insufferable kind because it has a "clear" conscience and This Time We Really Know What We Are Doing And The World Had Better Acknowledge That Finally, We REALLY Have All The Sustainable Answers.

Which world would YOU like to grow old in?

2:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Every civilization carries the seeds of its own destruction, and the same cycle shows in them all. The Republic is born, flourishes, decays into plutocracy, and is captured by the shoemaker whom the mercenaries and millionaires make into a king. The people invent their oppressors, and the oppressors serve the function for which they are invented."
- Mark Twain in Eruption

The seeds of our own destruction are carried in our collective genome. It takes time, but eventually greed overcomes the loftier ideals and disintegration ensues.

7:02 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

In another small but telling indicator of decline, today's Annie's Mailbox advice column features a letter from a young woman whose former college friend, who had atrocious spelling & writing skills then, is now a special ed teacher. Apparently the friend's skills haven't improved at all, from her Facebook posts; the friend admits to having gotten the job solely by knowing the principal; and the letter writer wonders if she should bring this to the attention of the Board of Education.

What's interesting/depressing is the response from the readers. They all basically say, "Hey, what's the big deal? Reading & writing aren't everything. A warm, caring heart is more important in teaching anyway. Everyone writes less formally on Facebook. You sound like a snob."

8:14 AM  
Anonymous David M said...

A discussion among cassandras would inveriable have to include a quote from Henry David.

"The devil goes on exacting compound interest to the last for his early share and numerous succeeding investments in them. Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, whick distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive at; as railroads lead to Boston or New York.

Thoreau realized the futility in having material wealth, which is what many people refer to as progress. You're never satisfied and the cycle continues on until you have progress for progress's sake. Which is the biggest waster of all.

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Rowdy said...

Even the right-wingers are now pronouncing America dead e.g. Mark Steyn's "After America": http://www.amazon.com/After-America-Get-Ready-Armageddon/dp/1596981008

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's the full Spengler quote on America:

"What is 'hundred per cent Americanism'? A mass existence standardized to a low average level, a primitive pose, or a promise for the future?

All we know is that so far there is neither a real nation nor a real State. Can both of these develop out of the knocks of fate, or is this possibility excluded by the very fact of the Colonial type, whose spiritual past belongs elsewhere and is now dead? The American does not talk of State or Mother Country like the Englishman, but of "this country".

Actually what it amounts to is a boundless field and a population of trappers, drifting from town to town in the dollar-hunt, unscrupulous and dissolute; for the law is only for those who are not cunning or powerful enough to ignore it."

9:30 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tim-

I love stories like that. It's what Gore Vidal said a few yrs back, after pronouncing the US "a nation of morons": "stupidity excites me." As the cranial-rectal embedment (CRE) deepens, I can only shout, "Go, team!"

mb

10:25 AM  
Blogger Neb said...

Tim,

Some of those facebook guys and gals are business managers who tell professionals who write reports or make presentations to keep it at a “high school level” for the audience of other managers. When hearing that I know they really mean third grade.

Those dominionists are really exciting. But I can’t help but think of the Nazi’s in Hogan’s Heroes when I think of them. Also, when the military goes 401k as you referenced, I think of how the Romans went mercenary.

But the excitement has even moved onto that other exciting place - Second Life. A documentary I tripped over (despite incessant hurricane Irene drama) profiled two figures stuck in that/their virtual world. One woman purportedly had earned a six figure income designing and selling virtual clothing for virtual money which somehow translates into money Ben Bernanke would approve of. She was the envy of some family members which had to do actual physical work and interact with people despite her obvious work related 300-lb frame and smoking addiction. The income stopped when a hacker took all her gear and gave it away for free to other users.
The other person recognized he was totally addicted given the ruin of his actual (?) life. He became a Second Life terrorist; machine-gunning and blowing up other virtual people and virtual property. He wanted to be thrown off the network since he decided he couldn’t stop himself; he denied others the exercise of their virtual selves. For all the virtual death and destruction the Server Kings gave him only a 24 hour probation. The Matrix exponentialized.

8:08 PM  
Blogger Neb said...

Prof. Berman.

I'm interested in knowing how you intend to unlink Dr. Marcus Bachman from Senator Bachmann.

Then agian, it might not be a tough plan if the Dr. comes out the closet.

8:49 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Neb-

I don' think Michele is a senator.

mb

9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Neb:

'selling virtual clothing for virtual money which somehow translates into money Ben Bernanke would approve of.'

Unfortunately the money Bernanke approves of is virtual money. But look on the bright side. At least in Second Life you can buy clothes made in America.


Tom.

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Are you familiar with the comedian, Jeff Foxworthy's routine? "You might be a redneck if..." My favorite (because of the local reference) is: You might be a redneck if you think heaven looks a lot like Daytona Beach, Florida.

Now, what if a similar series of jokes ("You might be an American if...") catches on? I'll get things started (again, with a local flavor): You might be an American if your idea of athletic accomplishment is NASCAR driving.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Aristotle teaches us to, 'find the correspondence between things.' I'm wondering if there's a connection between the demise of the USA and the incessant release of these ludicrous, comic book based 'super-hero' films.

Are they metaphors for a Messiah that will come and rescue America? as in, 'don't you worry folks!

And why is there no 'buy' button on this blog to purchase Dick Cheney's book?

11:27 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Per the comments about folks living a virtual reality life, I wrote down this quote from a Max Keiser show a few months back:

"People, let me explain something to you. The underlying natural resources of the globe that are the basis of the global economy are disintegrating. Until you come to terms with that, no amount of virtual credits on Zinga (sp.?) or Farmville is going to save you from extinction."

Well said. Kevin

4:03 PM  
Blogger Bill Britton said...

In a related post on Facebook, I wrote: The problem before us is that the military/industrial complex is so well-woven into the fabric of government; by that I mean D.C. decision-makers are wedded to the influence of K-Street’s military lobbyists and their derivative campaign con...tributions. Interleaved is the fact that many of the appointed overseers and career mid-level managers have a military background or are part of an establishment that is highly protective of its turf. Plus, momentum is a major factor. For example, look at the billions, and years, that were wasted on the Marine’s Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, which was finally cancelled by Secretary Gates. Billions spent despite the fact that the Marines haven’t made a beach assault in decades. I see nothing on the horizon to suggest that this momentum will slow. It’s too easy for Washington to cut back social programs and redirect those funds to enhance “national security.”

The beginning of the end for our democracy came with the adoption of NSC-68, written during the Truman administration, which essentially turned the U.S. in the direction of militarism as the primary vehicle for diplomacy. Unrecognized by the citizenry is the fact that we are now a military society that is financed on the backs of the lower 80% of the population, income-wise. This cannot continue on indefinitely without a further breakdown of society. In addition, the end of the draft ended the concept of shared sacrifice; it also eliminated the experiential inputs from elected officials who have served.

To some, the Tea Party represents a cure for our present ills, but whatever its good intentions might have been in its nascent stages, the Tea Party has morphed into a quasi-fundamentalist group financed by folks like the Koch brothers who see its membership as a tool to promote their parochial interests. Alas, those interests are far removed from the common good. At least the theoretical intentions of Washington are to promote the common good, although the national polity has lost sight of those intentions over the last few decades.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Thank u all for writing in; we seem to be in the midst of a lively discussion. God, I love being depressed, I just can't help it.

My response is for all of u to contemplate this true fact: starting next month, the Amer Hist curriculum in Texas will include, in its syllabus, a unit on Estee Lauder, but not on George Washington. Seriously. I'm hoping that next yr they will replace Ben Franklin w/Paris Hilton.

And people laugh at me when I say the country is going down the toilet! They laugh!

Bill: Good post. On NSC-68 etc., check out the relevant section in DAA, wh/u might 'enjoy'.

7:58 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Meanwhile, I just drafted a letter to the Texas State Bd of Education, suggesting that the following 3 items be slotted into a history of American music unit:

1. The Hoodoo Rhythm Devils
2. Warren Zevon
3. Julius LaRosa (this is really going back, but in the mid-60s in Baltimore he did singing commercials for Tastycake Cakes and Pies--there's Americana for ya!)

Please compose your own list of vital topics for Texas high schoolers to master, and we'll send them a package e-mail w/all our signatures.

10:15 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sidebar:

I hafta say that between Michele Bachmann, Barbara Ann Nowak, Latreasa Goodman, and the TX State Bd of Ed, this country may well be the funniest place on the globe! In fact, it's *hysterically* funny, and I think we have an obligation to enjoy it.

10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DARK AGES MEXICO: THE FIRST PHASE OF THE INVASION, Our country need your thougths professor Berman. Reciba un gran abrazo. ~ Nacho González

1:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A school curriculum with Estee Lauder and NOT George Wasington is funny. A school curriculum with literal lies about our political and social history is not. Teaching students that the House Un-American Activities Committee was right is blatant propagandizing of students.

History? Whose story? Texas gives lesson in revision

History in Texas classrooms will be decidedly different from when we were students. I never learned "both the positive and negative impacts of ... country and western music" in my high school history class. Where would you rate Estée Lauder in terms of historical importance to our country? If you think she is one of the 68 most important historical figures, you agree with the board. Yes, the board included her in the state curriculum, but not George Washington.

I also never learned that the findings of the House Committee on Un-American Activities were confirmed, perhaps because it is not true. It puts teachers in an awkward position by asking them to teach something that is historically inaccurate. I will not have to deal with that issue in some of my classes because my Advanced Placement U.S. History classes are not required to follow the state curriculum. I am guessing that the Texas Education Agency realizes that students could never pass national exams while learning the state-mandated curriculum.

During the next decade, we should not be surprised when university professors lament that Texas students are not prepared for college. Malcolm X once said, "Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today." You might remember a historical figure named Malcolm X, but your children won't. Malcolm X is not in the social studies curriculum in Texas. Now if you will excuse me, I have to do some research on Estée Lauder. She was not mentioned in any of my graduate history courses, either.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Why are you picking on Texas? Keep it up and we'll secede and then you'll be sorry. But since we have the opportunity to suggest courses for HS students, here's mine:

Philosophy:

Does God Really Exist?

The student will decide after reading inspiring true stories of high school quarterbacks, lottery winners and girls who were two weeks late with their periods.

Field Biology:

At the end of the course you must:

1. Correctly identify a long horn.
2. Correctly identify the meat in your drive-thru burger.
3. Successfully have killed all living organisms in your enviornment (including but not limited to microorganisms in the soil) with a pesticide/herbicide known to cause birth defects and take 500 years to biodegrade.

History:

The Rise and Fall and Then Sort of Get Up and then Rise and Fall Again of the Dallas Cowboys.

The course will include the inspiring biography of St. Tom Landry, helpful tips from Jerry Jones on overcoming universal dislike and picking a good plastic surgeon plus the original business plan to screw taxpayers of much needed dollars to keep schools, parks and libraries open and instead build stadiums.

It's a start but we have to be realistic. No one actually reads the history books so we could just save the money and expand the parking lot.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous David M said...

Dr.Berman
I think were missing a good oppertunity if we don't get behind a Perry/Bachmann (Bachmann/Perry) ticket. Imagine the bafoonery and comedy that wiil ensue. Perry as the national Dominie and Michelle as the High Priestest. We could all die from laughter. Which is a lot better than due to climate change(extreme weather), economic implosion(starvation and or exposure)or diseases not covered by our health insurance. What has god wrought? A ticket made in heaven.

11:24 AM  
Blogger diana said...

Dr. B.

You are always ahead of the curve. Agree completely that we have to maintain a sense of humor during the collapse

In fact, I sometimes go the Super Wal-Mart at night to see how far we have sunk. Where else can you see cell phones being used to soothe teething infants who should be in their beds? Or where it is very obvious that the decline is not just mental. Some segments of our population are physically evolving into a new type of human.

In the face of all this, you either laugh or get a prescription for prozac or some other mind numbing drug.

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

I don't know - Warren Zevon might hit too close to home for the Board of Ed. Take "Play It All Night Long:"

Grandpa pissed his pants again
He don't give a damn
Brother Billy has both guns drawn
He ain't been right since Vietnam

"Sweet home Alabama"
Play that dead band's song
Turn those speakers up full blast
Play it all night long

Daddy's doing Sister Sally
Grandma's dying of cancer now
The cattle all have brucellosis
We'll get through somehow

"Sweet home Alabama"
Play that dead band's song
Turn those speakers up full blast
Play it all night long

I'm going down to the Dew Drop Inn
See if I can drink enough
There ain't much to country living
Sweat, piss, jizz and blood

"Sweet home Alabama"
Play that dead band's song
Turn those speakers up full blast
Play it all night long

1:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, lots to talk abt, clearly. Esp. the fact that just when you think the ML (Moron Level) has hit an asymptote, Americans (not just Texans) surprise u and crash thru the ceiling.

Kev-

Yeah, perhaps Zevon might be a bit hard for them to take; you've got a pt.

Diana-

Speaking of curves, the one of American physical devolution is an interesting one. I recently saw a T-shirt that showed evolution/devolution, of the human slowly arising from a primate bent over pos'n to nearly uprt, and then down again, bent over a computer screen. Caption was: "What went wrong?" Indeed.

Susan-

Wd be hard for students to read any of that. Perhaps render all of these topics in videos (=pablum).

Anon-

Yeah, I read that thing abt HUAC having been 'right'; what a travesty of history, and to the memory of those whose lives were destroyed by it. Someone oughta sue the Texas Bd of Ed, but I'm not sure who. Meanwhile, the crucial imptc of Estee Lauder for American history cannot, I do not think, be overestimated. Didju know that in a former incarnation, she was one of the Founding Mothers of our nation, and actually signed the Declaration of Independence (but in lemon juice, wh/is why her sig remained invisible)? Years later she showed up again as the real Harriet Beecher Stowe, and then finally, in our own day, as Barbara Ann Nowak. What a roller coaster ride the woman's lives have been, and what an inspiration to us all.

mb

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Dr. Berman, to dovetail Susan, may I add a few courses I feel should intellectually edify most US high schoolers.
1. The life and times of George Wallace- the comedian, not the governor of Alabama.
2.Earth- the center of the universe. Got a problem with that?
3.Foreigners-Who are they, what do they want, and who you should contact if you meet one.
4. How to profit from the coming Rapture. Jewish students may find this information helpful.
5. Zen. Students will be required to hand in a blank piece of paper each Friday. Lined paper will be unacceptable and could cause you to repeat the course.

10:59 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dan-

I recently awoke from a dream in which every high school student and teacher in America was required to wear a T-shirt to schl every day that said, "My Head Is Rammed Up My Ass And I Know Nothing At All!" The curriculum was uniform throughout the land, and called Everybody Is A Behind. Classes consisted of watching videos, texting, or ordering pizza on yer cell phone; anyone found carrying a bk was sent to the principal's office and beaten w/a stick. The only printed material allowed was a set of typed sheets containing the collected speeches of President Bachmann.

But then I came out of the dream, and was sad, because I realized that all of this hadn't happened--yet.

mb

3:59 AM  
Anonymous David M said...

Dr. Berman
I met some friends for dinner a few nights ago. A mosque was being renovated near one's house. She was invited to dinner by one of the worshipers/renovators. She expressed concern about accepting the invitation. She being a retired chemist,(so called educated person) I thought she might want to learn a little about the religion and the Quran, so I offered to loan a couple of books on the subject(Approaching The Quran the Early Revelations by Michaels Sells and The Meaning of The Holy Quran a scholarly and devout translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali). She informed me that she was too lazy to read such books and another one in the party wondered why I had such books. (And my wife wonders why I get frustrated with these people). An opportunity to enrich one's life by immersing oneself in another's culture and one's too lazy! I can only guess that the book format was too much work(she needed a video)or she just wants to stay ignorant: The American Way.

I highly recommend the Micheals Sells book for someone wanting to get their feet wet.The introduction is a cornacopia of information and it includes a cd of recitations.

8:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terrific piece today at Truthdig by Hedges. Basically advising people to “turn their backs” on the system and see out “monastic enclaves”.
A few thoughts from the last 6-10 months of living and working outside of the US.
1.Obsessive use of technology seems to cross nationalities and borders but there are shades of grey still out there. Due to my job I’ve seen a pretty good range of nationalities at work and play over the last couple of years. Put a cell phone in a Korean kid’s hands and he’s at least as likely as American kid to start abusing it. Same cld be said of a Turkish father, a Brazilian woman etc.. Informal observations but I think that to the degree Western tchnology or values are absorbed you’ll see similar problems arise. Often looks like a class problem but hafta wonder if it’s more about affordability than anything else.

2.I’ve caught more random shit about being from the US while traveling in the last 6-12 months than ever before. Not hard to understand but there’s an increased willingness to let you know about it. I suspect our most recent financial debacle removed all doubt about the end of the empire. Your cache being an American is losing value faster than our phony derivatives. Cash in now or it may not be worth anything in a year. I don’t think American’s realize how over the romance with the US is.

3.Stronger generational divide and differences. Seems to be an acute change in dealing with those under about 26 -27 from the States. Conversations past a minute or so seems impossible. It’s like they’re clicking a hyperlink to somewhere else in their brain.

After a few words you’re nothing more than a web page they aren’t gonna visit again. Of course they’re indifferent to doddering old people over 40 but it’s weirder as they don’t even seem to see you at times.

Best to everyone – as always the posts by all are great.

El Juero

8:48 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Susan,

Very funny stuff! Florida just isn't all that funny anymore; maybe I should move to Texas (I enjoy steak, after all). Which leads me to...

RE: "American physical devolution"
The cartoon, "The Long History of Man's Evolution" can be viewed here:
www.ahajokes.com/crt145.html

Here's the abstract of a recent article, "The Western Diet and Lifestyle and Diseases of Civilization":
"It is increasingly recognized that certain fundamental changes in diet and lifestyle that occurred after the Neolithic Revolution, and expecially after the Industrial Revolution and the Modern Age, are too recent on an evolutionary time scale, for the human genome to have completely adapted. This mismatch between our ancient physiology and the western diet and lifestyle underlies many so-called diseases of civilization, including coronary heart disease, obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, epithelial cell cancer, autoimmune disease, and osteoporosis, which are rare or virtually absent in hunter-gatherers and other non-westernized populations. It is therefore proposed that the adoption of diet and lifestyle that mimic the beneficial characteristics of the preagricultural environment is an effective strategy to reduce the risk of chronic degenerative diseases."

Clearly, progress isn't all it's cracked up to be, with Americans "leading" the way.

8:48 AM  
Anonymous Jason said...

"Presidency of Michelle Bachmann" comic from a recent issue of a MN weekly (http://www.citypages.com/microsites/comics-avidor/)

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

And this from soon-to-be-president (for "life," - in multiple ways):

Bachmann: Hurricane and earthquake are messages from God to cut spending

http://tinyurl.com/3zfnb5o

10:05 AM  
Blogger HansfromDK said...

Dan -
Say, are you a member of the board of some famous high school? The only course I might add to your list is "Pizza knowledge", which will replace geometry.

Dr Berman -
A small practical problem: Sometimes I want to find old posts in your blog, but it is very hard. Would it be possible to implement a search function? I do not think it is costly or difficult.

PS.
Here in Chile the students at many universities have been on strike since May demanding free and better education. At the Universidad de Chile there is a big poster showing president Piñera with donkey's ears and the text: "From a jackass we only expect kicks!" These students do not take anything from those in power.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

This is all great stuff; some of the best dialogue we've had on this blog. Was glad to hear that Chris Hedges endorses the "monastic option," as I called it in the Twilight book. Now to actually implement it--not so easy. Hans: I'll hafta think abt search function; as of now, I just click thru the list of dates in the Archive list; wh/is a pain, but not impossible. Art: When I was wrtg "Wandering God," I came across some research that said that the height of hunter-gatherer's was greater than humans after the Neo Rev, and that we didn't recapture the same height until the 20thC. This wd suggest better nutrition in an HG diet, I'm guessing.

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Wasn't there another story recently about a school board that removed Slaughterhouse Five from the school library at the demand of someone who homeschools his own children? Didn't want other children being corrupted by reading & thinking, I guess.

Meanwhile, check out No Way to Honor Dr. King:

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/08/26

The ceremonies for the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington DC were kicked off on August 24 at an event billed as Honoring Global Leaders for Peace. But some of those honored are a far cry from King’s beloved community of the poor and oppressed. The tribute to peacemakers, organized by the MLK National Memorial Foundation, was mostly a night applauding warmakers, corporate profiteers and co-opted musicians.

Cornel West has similar thoughts in Dr. King Weeps From his Grave:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/26/
opinion/martin-luther-king-jr-would-want-a-revolution-not-a-memorial.html?_r=2&hp

Though apparently he still believes that just electing the right people will save us all from ourselves. Unless the NYT insisted on a "vibrant solution" at the end.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Nicholas Colloff said...

I must confess reading this blog often gives me the feeling that I am living in a bubble - perhaps I am only connected to people taking 'a monastic option' but David M's latest post of the lazy chemist afraid of going to dinner with a builder of a mosque (and not wishing to read Michael Sells' excellent book) is contrasted with my own mother (in England) to whom I have just given the Sells book, prior to her going on her understanding Islam course (that I am giving her as a birthday present). My mother will be 79 and left school at 16 and is presently exploring the Society of Friends (in her own search for community)!

Go figure...

4:25 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Nicholas-

Well, not that hard to figure out, really. Just keep in mind that America consists of 310 million people w/their heads firmly rammed up their rumps! IQ doesn't have much to do w/it. Once u grasp this, then most of what's going on becomes quite clear.

Tim-

I read the Cornel West piece. How someone that intelligent can still believe in the efficaciousness of the electoral process is completely beyond me. Yeah, a real change agent, that. Jesus Christ...

mb

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Not only height of hunter-gatherers but also folks during the early Middle Ages:

MEN FROM EARLY MIDDLE AGES WERE NEARLY AS TALL AS MODERN PEOPLE

http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/medimen.htm

See Doug Rushkoff's "Life, Inc." for a further discussion: he postulates that it was a time of more economic well-being because a) economies were local, b) activity was craft-based, and c) governmental structures were not centralized. This all ended with the rise of the corporation/industrialism (i.e. 'life, inc.').

6:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kev-

As far as I know, this contradicts data from graves, coffins, etc. Avg medieval European height was abt 5 ft, according to literally everything I read on the subject.
(But then I haven't read on the subject for 10 yrs.)

mb

7:13 PM  
Anonymous David M said...

I copied the following paragraph out of a high end stereo publication. The article was about the inability of middleclass to persue their audiophile hobbies and includes some enlightening quotes.

In the November 27 New York Times, "Some Very Creative Economic Fix-Its," by Davis Segal, in which New York University economics professor Andrew Caplin explained that the global economy is morphing into a "cater to the rich" model. According to Caplin, growing inequality will now be a fact of life in the US, and the middle class would do best by trying to "understand the needs" of the wealthy and attempting to provide services to meet their demands. This echoes a sentiment expressed by newly elected senator Rand Paul (R-KY). "We're all interconnected in this economy," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on November 2. "We all either work for rich people or sell stuff to rich people."

I was shocked, not by the quotes(I expect that from the NYT and Sir Rand Paul) but by the tacet resignation and approval of the writer. He seems to have accepted that we now live in a feudal society and thats ok. I guess we will be assigning royals titles to the rich next:duke, count or grand bizarre. Just more evidence of our downward spiral.

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Salon has an article about major city symphonies going under due to lack of funding, and the comments are fascinating, as always:

http://www.salon.com/entertainment/
2011/08/29/can_the_symphony_be_saved/
index.html

Several mock the idea of classical music as (of course) "elitist" & say good riddance to it. More civilized posters point out that a living culture must be, well, cultured:

For me, retired 12 years, music is why I get out of bed in the morning, and how I order my life. I play chamber music with Met professionals, and conduct a small group of non-professionals, once a week, 3 concerts a year. I have never been happier, even though my body (I am 71) is beginning to wear out. I have a decent pension, SS and a small rental property, and I have enough.

I guess it proves that I am a fuzzy-minded naif in that I can't understand why someone who has 20 million bucks a year or so will work 100 hours a week, run over his own grandmother, and screw his fellow citizens just to make an extra million. The concept of ENOUGH seems totally foreign to our society....and so it is to cancer cells, which eventually kill the host body and thus themselves.


And:

There are the usual predictable responses
here that basically center around the notion that if it doesn't turn a profit, it must not be worthwhile having. This is country that has decided that healthcare is not worth providing without a profit motive. Given that attitude, how could we then possibly see the benefits of having a symphony orchestra, or any other arts organisation in our communities that might provide some aesthetic beauty? We have truly become morally and spiritually bankrupt.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

David-

David Segal is a NYT business reporter. I haven't yet been able to download that article, but I hope to w/in a couple of days. Thanks for the ref.

Tim-

Full historical answer to why someone w/$20m/yr wd want to run over his grandmother etc. is provided in "Why America Failed," due out in late Oct. Be sure to get one for the kitchen, one for the bathrm. That guy yer quoting is one of those people called Rare American Exception; a non-American, as it were.

Just had a fun exchange w/my editor at Wiley regarding the flap copy of the bk. Original last para read: "Many readers will take exception to much of WAF--beginning, perhaps, w/the title. But it is possible that a few will read this bk and join Berman etc etc." Editor changed 2nd sentence to read, "But many more will read this bk and join Berman etc." I wrote him: Are u kidding me? "Many more" will do no such thing. Change it back. He replied: "Gimme a break; whaddyu think, I can put it in marketing copy that most people won't like the bk?" I conceded that he was rt. At least I didn't put anything on the flap about cranial-rectal embedment, etc...demonstrating some (rare) restraint on my part; altho we now have bks w/titles like "Just How Stupid Are We?", "Idiot America," and "The Dumbest Generation". I continue to wait for: "Typical American Now a Total Buffoon."

mb

3:22 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Art--While you're always welcome here in Texas, I must admit, I wouldn't recommend it. 112, 108, and today only 103--it literally feels like the world is on fire when you walk outside. We can't frack that natural gas fast enough to keep the AC running and we'll all die without it.

Tim---If you personally are the beneficiary on the insurance policy, why not run over Grandma? We're in a recession you know and a million doesn't go as far as it used to. So just skip the death panel and lure her into the driveway.

David--It always amazes me to hear remarks like the one you quoted from Rand Paul. There are some commons that no matter how rich you are, can't be controlled and to degrade them threatens their lives as much as anyone else. ER doctors are trained in county hospitals (I worked in a trauma unit as a new nurse) and the effect of cutting funding to them means fewer surgeons are being adequately trained. No one is immune from car wrecks and a skilled surgeon and staff in an emergency will make the difference between life and death. I took care of street people and millionaires involved in accidents. If a country doesn't invest in quality training for medical emergencies then, regardless of income, people will be taking their chances in ER's.

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Julian said...

I'm a long-time reader of this blog and now a first time poster. Found the following link as I was poking around on IMDB and thought that the movie mentioned fit the subject matter of this blog:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1462014/

In addition, one of the directors, Harold Crook, did "The Corporation". To my surprise, the entire movie can be seen for free on IMDB.

J

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dept of Things Are So Bad...etc.

Edward Gibbon, author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, composed a witty thought about Roman culture just before the descent which goes (as best I can remember) thusly:

"The religions of ancient Rome were considered equally true by the populace, equally useful by the politicians, and equally false by the philosophers."

This is only partially true for the United States--hence I couldn't come up with an equally (!) balanced assessment of our current condition in an equally Ciceronian style, parallel structure and all. We are so bad off such rhetorical flourishes are beyond us, or we are not worthy of it.

The decay of Roman culture and the rise of an incoherency in written discourse is a topic discussed by Eric Auerbach in his "Mimesis." In the chapter "The Arrest of Peter Valleres (sp?).

--M. Notzon

8:17 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Mark-

I discuss the Roman intellectual situation in Twilight as well, but forgot to include "Mimesis." Damn.

Julian-

Gd stuff. I highly recommend the Ronald Wright bk.

Susan-

According to some recent news article I read, med students are now boning up for their exams by rdg stuff off of Wikipedia. Gray's Anatomy is apparently a thing of the past. I think I might read the Wiki essay on lobotomy, perform a DIY operation at home. Apparently all u need is a long knife and a mirror.

mb

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Here's a few more ideas for the Texas school board to consider:
1.Why the Jews killed Jesus and are they planning to do it again. Students may opt out of the final exam if they agree to be part of Jesus's security detail.
2.How humans survived the dinosaurs. Students will be required to listen to the audio version of Jurrasic Park.
Fit to be President. Students will examine the Body Mass Index of various presidents.
4. Famous American slaves (when they were slaves).
Funny space aliens. Students will be required to compare and contrast the characters on Third Rock from the Sun and The Conehead Movie.
5.The United States flag has 50 stars and other amazing facts. This course is reserved for those in advanced placement.

1:48 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

That evolution/devolution cartoon "culminates" (as you have noted) with the human bent over the computer. The authors of the paper, "The Western Diet and Lifestyle and Diseases of Civilization" suggest that the "most disruptive and maladaptive changes" may be due to our contemporary "generalized physical inactivity, introduction of various pollutants, avoidance of sun exposure, and reduction in sleep time and quality coupled with increased psychological stress". (Along with the prevalence of junk food, of course)

So, this is the American Business phase of evolution, I guess; "time is money" being valued above all else.

8:19 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

Here in the northeast, we got whacked pretty hard by Irene; historic in some parts, namely Vermont, upstate NY.

In ME, where I live, large areas around my home are still w/out power; these are places on the main road, not up in the boonies, or on private lanes. Our local utility (that I once worked for) has been subsumed by a large Spanish multinational, which has purged their workforce to benefit shareholders. As a result, outages now last days, instead of hours. Time for a generator, at least until the gas/oil runs out.

I note all this, along with the fact that FEMA is running out of funds and point you to JKunstler's recent post to say that yes, we are an empire in rapid decline.

Enjoying the comments especially of late.

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Greeks Being Happy

It is not something you are.
It is something you do.
It is not your own private affair.
All the world says Bravo!
It is a Greek at bouzouki
so drunk he can't stand
one friend on each side
holding him up so he can dance.
It is everyone watching sober
being happy with him.

--Kenneth O. Hanson, from The Uncorrected World

I like this poem because the first sentence contradicts the title and the last concurs with it, virtually repeats the title.

I'll resist the temptation to riff on this poem, that being one of my assorted dementias, perhaps lurking Oedipal rivalry.
But I can't resist so I'll suggest a poem called "Americans Being Happy" could easily be produced.

Americans Being Happy

It is something you are.
It is something you don't do.
It is your private affair.
All the world says Fuck You!
It is an American at Karaoke...etc.

Well, a tedious mechanical exercise but I've made my point.

2:28 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

http://www.nytimes.com
/2011/08/30/opinion/
falser-words-were-never
-spoken.html?_r=1&hp

got the link from truthdig. How fitting that our culture crushes the nuance of these great minds and uses - ineptly - words they almost spoke to self-help. Barf.

11:26 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Joe-

I tell ya, New Agers are the worst, the absolute worst. There isn't enuf barf in the world to properly drench their shoes.

mb

12:05 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Joe,

Yes, the rich experience of a complex life reduced to a pre-digested, blanderized soundbite. UGH!

Because reading even a single but complete paragraph is more than many can manage these days ...

Yesterday I watched a couple of old "Room 222" (1969-1974) episodes. I then watched a couple of reruns of "Friends" & "Two & a Half Men" as a comparison.

"Room 222" may have been a bit naive & overly earnest, but it presented reasonably believable teenagers grappling with problems like war, pollution, racism, etc., not to mention the difficulties of becoming authentic human beings. These teenagers wanted to be grownups, and to be treated as such. The more recent sitcom characters, on the other hand, were in their 30s-40s & doing their best to act like adolescents. Particularly crude & bratty adolescents, in fact.

I could just as easily have sampled any number of current shows about teenagers, all of whom are glorified mannequins & whose interests are looks, status, money & bitchiness.

Because that's the approved template of human existence sold to the public today. To them, one of those tailored, homogenized soundbites will indeed seem like wisdom of the ages.

8:31 AM  
Anonymous David M said...

Dr. Berman
Democracy now had a report about, and an interview with some cultural exchange students. A group of students from eastern Europe and east Asia were here to work and travel the country. The Hersey Corp. tried to use them as indentured workers and put them to work in one of their chocolate factories for $8.10/hr on the 3-11 shift and threatened them if they refused. (The company was also overcharging them for their living quarters.) I guess the threats didn't work, the students are striking. They have requested that their jobs be given to locals out of work at livable wages. The students got a taste of what american culture is all about these days and I think hersey is getting a taste of theirs.

5:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: "Falser Words Were Never Spoken" in the NYT... Even official sources indulge in this editing of so-called "quotes" it seems:

NPR: A Paraphrased Quote Stirs Criticism Of MLK Memorial

In other news, auditing turns up yet more waste, fraud, and abuse in military contracts. Aren't you just shocked, shocked? Yada yada...

Panel Finds Widespread Waste In Wartime Contracts

And guess what? Those
"security scanners" at the airports don't even meet the lax standards set by TSA itself for safety. Hmm, so just how did they get approved int he first place? Maybe the military is not the only locus of corruption and graft?

Documents Reveal New Details About DHS Development of Mobile Body Scanners

EPIC has obtained more than one hundred fifty pages of documents detailing the Department of Homeland Security’s development of mobile body scanners and other crowd surveillance technology. The documents were obtained as a result of a Freedom Information Act lawsuit brought by EPIC against the federal agency. According to the documents obtained by EPIC, vehicles equipped with mobile body scanners are designed to scan crowds and pedestrians on the street and can see through bags, clothing, and even other vehicles. The documents also reveal that the mobile backscatter machines cannot be American National Standards Institute “certified people scanners” because of the high level of radiation output and because subjects would not know they have been scanned. For more information see EPIC: Whole Body Imaging Technology and EPIC: EPIC v. DHS (Suspension of the Body Scanner Program).

5:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More fun with quotes. Thomas Frank in Harpers from April of this year on the "historical knowledge" of the Tea Party sloganeers.

Check it yourself By Thomas Frank

Also available in a paste bin page for people who aren't subscribers: Check it Yourself

8:26 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

I tell ya, it just gets better and better:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/08/11/139536686/pa-judge-sentenced-to-28-years-in-massive-juvenile-justice-bribery-scandal

11:41 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

This appears inscribed on the recent 30-foot, Chinese-designed MLK memorial statue:

"I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness."

What King actually said was:

"If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter."

Well, at least the statue's not twirling a baton.

1:28 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kel-

In addition to the botched quote, I understand that the sculpted version of MLK looks grim and angry--very un-MKL-like.

mb

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Hi Maury,

Yes, the style is monolithic communist realism, the artist known also for his portrayals of Mao. MLK is represented as stern with arms crossed. The body language ain't friendly or inclusive.

Ironies abound! Soon all of DC will be adorned with Chinese-designed monoliths, perhaps the aesthetic pay back for our T-Bills.

2:29 PM  
Anonymous mbl said...

Would you consider coming to the east coast? Rochester, NY? Toronto? Dare I say it, Buffalo? I'd love to hear you speak. From what I've read you are from the Rochester area...so maybe you'd like to come out here to speak? SUNY Buffalo is a huge university and is having some 911 truthers speak there, so they're not afraid of controversy.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Back in the USA after a lovely 2 months traveling in SE. Asia. Of course there are tech buffoons there but they were mostly the western tourists. The Thais and Cambodians are too busy talking with each other or just working to survive than to waste any time on some techno crap. And yes, the energy is surely in Asia. Just to see the energy on a (say) Wednesday night in Bangkok tells you that the zeitgeist has moved on. Also, it is so refreshing to be in countries that are not at war. I think Hedges wrote that because the US is in a state of perpetual war, that the more feminine qualities such as kindness, generosity, and empathy cannot surface in daily American life. As a result, I witnessed on more than one occasion Americans screaming at the Thais and Cambodians over such trivial things as not speaking loud enough or hassling them over a few pennies. It's hard to watch.
Anyway, back teaching at my very inner-city school where we teachers were lectured yesterday about the need for students not to drop out. About 50% drop out during high school on a day when the US produced not one friggin' job. Hey, why not drop out. THer's no money to go to college and even 80% of college grads are still living with their parents. There is no social safety net for these kids and it's hard to believe there will be social security in 50-60 years from now. I would simply suggest these students quickly become friends with a Chinese, learn the language and get to Asia. Be a stowaway in other words.

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Paul Emmons said...

Folks here might be interested in another recent "dystopian" novel: _The Dewey Decimal System_ by Nathan Larson. Especially in that this is the first book from a young man hitherto known as a composer, I think that it is a success, although not what one would expect from the title. (Not that this should come as a surprise. Even if one dismisses the value of music itself, the educational establishment has chosen to ignore the extent to which deep and rigorous training in this part of the traditional quadrivium prepares a student for many other endeavors.) I hope that my "review" contributed to Amazon a few days ago is duly Berman-informed and won't repeat it here.

To me, this book was particularly thought-provoking in this respect: the hero is countercultural in being a wounded but proud outsider and free-thinking rebel; but he is also a typical product of American culture in being very obsessive-compulsive. He defends these habits in his mind with many ideas which the reader easily identifies as superstitious.

Morris has already pointed out ways in which American culture promotes "OCD" (pharmaceutical and otherwise). Question: do obsessions and compulsions *inevitably* lead to superstitions-- defects in the will bleeding over into defects in the intellect? If so (and it looks like a viable hypothesis to me) then of course, a culture as obsessive-compulsive as ours is also riddled with superstition. This would be, of course, yet another aspect of the lights going out.

Morris, in general this is not the novel of ideas that I was expecting it to be, but my offer still stands to send you a copy as a gift if you are interested.

12:43 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Paul-

I love receiving gifts, esp. when accompanied by chopped liver.

mbl-

Happy to go north; problem is that I have no money! Talk to folks at SUNY, see if u can't wangle an invitation. A long shot, to be sure.

mb

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It'd be great to see you on the guest panel on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. Maybe your publisher can send him a copy? (or however these things work) I sense there'd be a natural rapport between you and him, tho' you might have to endure the idiocy of another panel guest with headupbumitis.

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading this blog, but I do think it's getting a bit harsh even for my cynical eyes.

The collapse is finally speeding up. The next 5 to 10 years are going to be really, really bad in this country, and after that is anybody's guess.

So we should be careful what we wish for (or even what we are just observing). I mean it is really sad, we can laugh about it, but it's getting to the point where we can no longer poke fun at it.

It's getting more serious now, people.

10:15 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

I'm getting confused by all the Anons, people.

Anon-

U cd be rt. After all, cabaret acts in the 1920s did skits on what a clown Hitler was; suddenly, he was the psychotic leader of the nation. I have no doubt it'll get very ugly in the next few yrs. But I still can't help having a great laugh when the TX Bd of Ed pulls the unit on Geo Washington, and replaces it w/one on Estee Lauder. I mean, satire that's real really is hysterically funny.

Anon-

Yeah, I'd get along w/Bill, but wd probably lose control and pummel the other guest, start beating him w/my book, wh/wd come across as definitely uncool. All those anger management courses for nothing...

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Morris and the Anon worried about laughing too much...

A certain kind of resigned yet sick humor got the Russians through Stalinism and no toilet paper all the way down to today's diamond-encrusted toilet paper for oligarchs.

More evidence is coming out now that the Germans had themselves a thriving humor scene not only in the Weimar run-up, but were Nazi-mocking throughout the Third Reich all the way to the final production number in the bunker. Now mind you, the growing consensus is that humor did not really aid dissent. Apparently, it often rather served as an, ahem, ersatz that actually helped quell congnitive dissonance and enable the regimes to survive longer even as they allowed people to hang on to some semblance of mental health.

So maybe Anonymous has a point.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, I for one will always be grateful to Tina Fey for her Palin impersonation on SNL. It does seem impt to recognize buffoons for what they are, even as the darkness overwhelms us. However, I'm no Maher or Colbert myself: my talks on the Great Collapse are uniformly grim, not studded w/amusing anecdotes. You see why I'm such a popular speaker in the US (not).

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Ray, Dr. Berman, et al --

Wasn't it Schopenhauer who said that the only divine quality humans have is humor? Don't sell it short.

About Russian humor -- An old Zionist pioneer, a kibbutznik, says to his grandchild, "See those trees; I planted them. See those buildings; I built them. See that road; I built it." The grand child replies, "Oh Zaida (Grandpa), you used to be an Arab!" I'll bet you anything that story comes from one of the newly arrived Russian immigrants.

Humor, however, has its limitations. During the war, a German teenage girl told a joke about Hitler. She said that Hitler and a friend were standing on a tall tower looking over Berlin. Hitler said, "I would like to do something wonderful for the people of this city." The friend replied, "You can – jump." Somebody reported the girl, she was arrested and hanged. Her parents received a bill for a 100 Mark 'execution fee'. That's more likely the way it will be here – "Report terrorist humor!"

Also about our situation – Bertolt Brecht once said that the only thing worse than living in a country without a sense of humor is living in one where you need a sense of humor.

David Rosen

11:26 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

DR-

Yeah, making jokes in Stalin's Russia was not gd for your health, as it turns out. Totalitarian regimes fear humor, because it flies in the face of who they are. It's spontaneous, human, and direct. I suspect we are going to need a lot of it in the yrs to come.

mb

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

"Cheerfulness of disposition...this good quality is its own instantaneous award. Whoever is merry and cheerful has always a good reason for so being, namely the very fact that he is so...A man may be young, handsome, wealthy, and esteemed; if we wish to judge of his happiness, we ask whether he is cheerful. On the other hand, if he is cheerful, it matters not whether he is young or old, straight or hump-backed, rich or poor; he is happy."

--Arthur Schopenhauer from "Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life," in Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays

But "cheerfulness" is probably an equivocation of humor and satire. One can be grim, even bitter, in disposition yet satirical and humorous (like Jonathan Swift).

3:07 PM  
Anonymous Ray said...

I suspect we will be a tougher nut to crack than your average totalitarian regime in the "humor as response" department.

Yes, like them we have developed a certain kind of self-important, easily mockable humorlessness about our precious selves in the last thirty years or so, but we have also cultivated a certain facile ability at snark and other related behaviors that can act as counterfeits to real self-mockery.

Plus we have the constant self-congratulatory trope that "WE Are the ones who can laugh at Dictators With No Sense of Humor..." so a kind of double meta-takedown of this kind of smugness will be difficult...

DAA 45 Thought experiment here...what would the jokes about Late Imperial Us actually sound like? The ones that would have the same amount of takedown effect as the jokes we cultivate about others?

Any tries? Do we have to wait for Chinese snark?

10:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Ray-

A tough one, to be sure. These are kinda lame, but the best I can do on short notice:

1. How many American soldiers stationed in Iraq does it take to screw in a light bulb? Ans: 50,000, but it still leaves everyone in the dark.

2. What did the Democratic politician say to the Republican politician? Ans: I'm glad all your ideas are awful; that way, the American people don't notice that we don't have any.

3. What did Michele Bachmann say to Sarah Palin? Ans: Is it true that the dinosaurs died out because they were un-American?

4. (American soldier knocking on door of occupied people's household:) Knock knock.
Who's there?
Your Liberator.
Could you give me a moment? I'm going to kill myself, save u the trouble.

3:08 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Morris,

#)4 has real possibilities. Houston, we have liftoff.

Speaking of Houston, would you concur that there is a direct relationship between our skyrocketing levels of self-important humorlessness and a creeping Southernization of our overall culture, affect, morals, and sensibility?

Yeah, yeah, there's Southern humor too, etc etc., but its never been self-reflectively cutting, rather mostly pseudo-folksy, the humor of powerless pre-modern resentment and takedown of people more successful (or pretending to be) than oneself, not the humor of sovereign, targeted self-awareness of one's own self-involved hybris.

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Morris,

Regarding dinosaurs and Michelle Bachman. There are two possible answers for Michelle:

1. They wouldn't fit on the ark (although the good folks at Answers in Genesis seem to think dinosaurs WERE ON the ark);

2. They stubbornly refused to accept Our Lord Jesus Christ as their personal savior forcing him to get up from the right hand of the Father, come down from heaven, and smite them hip and thigh with a big comet.

These competing hypotheses can be tested in the creation science department at Liberty University. I'm sure they'll have the answer soon.

Or something like that.

Bisley

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

A local news station had a story about a competitive eating contest in the area, part of the Labor Day tradition. (Yes, they said "tradition" with a straight face.) Aside from the fact that the whole concept is grotesque to begin with -- I mean, there's serious talk about trying to add competitive eating to the Olympics! -- what summed it all up was the sage wisdom offered by one contestant:

"You just have to stuff it in and keep it down."

If that isn't the modern American credo. than I don't know what is ...

7:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ray advocates

"targeted self-awareness of one's own self-involved hybris."

Amen--including the sort of hubris that stereotypes an entire region of Americans, while vaunting one's self-assumed superiority?

3:00 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anon-

Yeah, interesting pt. The South is a complicated issue in American history, obviously; not one-dimensional, altho I'm not sure Ray was talking about the 'literal' South. But I devote a whole chapter to Southern culture and the Civil War in "Why America Failed"; I suspect it's going to surprise a lot of people (coming from a white Northern boy).

mb

6:29 PM  

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